Monthly Archives: October 2015

The introduction of photography

Garceau photo 1
Boulevard du Temple, Paris. The solitary man having his shoes shined is at lower left. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Perhaps more than any other event, the introduction of photography altered how individuals were memorialized and are remembered. While portraits have been produced for thousands of years, photographic images were first introduced about 1838 and the first known photograph to contain people was produced between April and May of that year.[1] This photograph is of the Boulevard du Temple in Paris, and due to the long exposure time of about ten to twelve minutes, all people in the photograph moved and avoided being captured in the image, with the exception of a man having his shoes shined who remained still for the length of the exposure.[2] Continue reading The introduction of photography

Delayed recording of deeds

Early Maine Deeds and Wills. CD-ROM. Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2006. (Online database. New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2009), 8: 359.

While working on the Early New England Families Study Project sketch on Samuel Maverick this week, I came across a deed from 1636 that was not recorded until 1717! This is a good reminder that deeds are entered into the official books by the date they were recorded, not by the date they were made. Thus, one can never assume that a deed recorded after a person’s death – even decades after – is not that person’s deed.

A sale of land was legal, whether or not the deed was recorded, although recording the transaction helped to prove legality if disputed. Recording might be delayed until the land was sold the next time, which might be a generation or two later. Continue reading Delayed recording of deeds

A research exercise updated

Monroe Salisbury by DeGaston Studio.

Nine Vita Brevis readers took the plunge and sent in a set of complete answers to Monday’s research challenge. Thank you all for participating!

The winner had ten answers correct out of eleven; not a single person identified Monroe Salisbury (1876–1935), who played the second-billed Earl of Kerhill in Cecil B. DeMille’s 1914 western The Squaw Man.[1] Only one person correctly identified Milton Sills (1882–1930) as Gloria Swanson’s co-star in The Great Moment (1921); the general feeling among respondents was that Wallace Reid (1891–1923), who acted with Swanson in DeMille’s The Affairs of Anatol and Sam Wood’s Don’t Tell Everything (both 1921), was the man in the picture. Continue reading A research exercise updated

Mrs. Gray on marriage

Hedwiga Gray diary1
Hedwiga Regina Shober Gray diary, entries for 5-7 February 1864. R. Stanton Avery Special Collections

Regina Shober Gray’s diary abounds in telling details and contemporary gossip; in some ways, her views on the marriages (and marriage prospects) of her friends call out some of her choicest phrasing:

Boston, ca. Sunday, 5 January 1873: Our cousin John C. Gray, jr.[1]’s engagement to Nina Mason (daughter of the late Rev. Charles M.[2]) was announced yesterday. She is 19 – he 33 or 34, a great difference at her age. On dit[3] he fell very desperately in love with her when travelling in Europe – and that her mother would not consent to any engagement till the child had seen at least one year of home society, thinking very naturally Nina was too young & inexperienced to know her own mind.

Sunday, 19 January 1873: Poor young Nellie U[4]’s miserable entanglement with Charles Walker has come to a crisis at last, after having been town talk for more than two years; and in all that time, no whisper or suspicion has reached her parents’ ears. Continue reading Mrs. Gray on marriage

A research exercise

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I tried this for July 4, and thought it might be fun to try it again: I have several photos of Hollywood actors and actresses associated with a director and a film, and I wonder if some Vita Brevis readers can square the circle and identify the photos’ subjects. Continue reading A research exercise

“Free access”

122 Pearl Street abstract coverIt was a matter of some pride to my grandfather that his great-grandfather John Steward (1777–1854) bought the (downtown) Gracie Mansion[1] when he moved to New York more than two hundred years ago. Perhaps so, as John Steward lived at 1 Pearl Street until he moved far uptown to a new house at Fifth Avenue and Twenty-first Street, shortly before his death in 1854. The title abstracts in my grandfather’s box of family papers concerning John’s Pearl Street real estate are for some other properties – one was his store, at 80 Pearl Street,[2] while another (122 Pearl Street) was purchased from Mr. and Mrs. Charles McEvers. Continue reading “Free access”

“The bitter end”

Hedwiga Gray diary1
Hedwiga Regina Shober Gray diary, entries for 5-7 February 1864. R. Stanton Avery Special Collections

One of the most remarkable entries in the Regina Shober Gray diary – a document not short on remarkable entries – is the one where the diarist recounts a vivid dream in which she is a murderess. In the dream, as she says, she felt no “remorse or horror (for I did not deny the murder), but only a dull, stolid amazement that I should find myself in this disastrous, mortifying position.”[1]

The cool appraisal with which the diarist considers her feelings and motivations, the lack of self-consciousness about her professed guilt, and the ease with which she insists that she is a “lady” suggest that the diary was never meant to be read by others. Continue reading “The bitter end”

Far afield

Glidden monument in Cleveland
The Francis Harrington Glidden monument at Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland. Photo courtesy of Findagrave

There is a tendency, I think, to imagine that our ancestors moved around far less than we do, that they were parked in one spot for years at a time – perhaps they were born, married, and died in the same place. If, in fact, they emigrated to another country, this was a one-time thing, for by doing so they must have exhausted their wanderlust.

The experience of my own ancestors refutes this truism, although I certainly do have forebears who stayed in one place for generations at a time. Continue reading Far afield

Now, it’s time to write

Alicia Crane Williams[Editor’s Note: Between June and August of this year, Alicia wrote two series on her research and writing methodologies. In the interest of bringing them together, and sharing them with a fresh audience, they are offered again, with some of the author’s commentary. The first of these two posts appeared here:]

From Composition: Part One:

Many people enjoy fishing, but not as many enjoy cleaning the catch. That is why we all have piles of research sitting waiting to be compiled into finished accounts. In some cases we may have entered our data into a genealogical database, but as nice as they are for sorting a multitude of facts, there is still no replacement for a well-written genealogical story. Continue reading Now, it’s time to write

The horse he rode in on

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Every family history researcher hopes diligence and persistence will bring forth enough details of an ancestor’s life to fill out a void on the family tree. There is always hope that serendipity will produce unexpected history gold in letters, diaries, or journals. Charles Merrill Lee (1860–1887) is one of those relatives who stand in the background of family research until the odd paper comes to hand or an old memory nags at the brain.

My grandmother always called him “Uncle Charlie.” Born in Maine, Charlie was four years younger than her father Fred Lee. Uncle Charlie was seldom mentioned, in my presence anyway, and usually in regretful tones. My questions were unanswered, and a search of the usual public records yielded little information. Continue reading The horse he rode in on