Monthly Archives: November 2015

“Here’s three times three”

The youngest of the surviving Beeckman siblings, my great-great-uncle Livy[1] was the first to die. My great-grandmother – his sister Margaret Atherton (Beeckman) Steward (1861–1951) – preserved what was presumably the last of his letters, written from his house in California in advance of the Stewards’ fiftieth wedding anniversary in January 1935: it is among the family papers in my grandfather’s iron box.

“Dear Cam & Daisy,” Uncle Livy wrote, “I only wish I could send you a castle in gold to live in for the rest of your lives – but I am afraid it would be only a castle in the air. You have had such a wonderful life together that you have set us all an example I envy. I hope you both have many happy years together and I only wish I could be with you to congratulate you on the happy day. With much love to you both, R.L.B.” Continue reading “Here’s three times three”

Consider the siblings

Annie Hughes deathFor the last several months, I have been trying to determine the origins of each of my mother’s Irish ancestors. In a previous post, I mentioned my success in locating the origins of my Kenefick ancestors; however, I have been having trouble with some ancestors with much more common surnames.

The earliest record I have for my maternal great-great-grandparents Patrick Cassidy and Mary Hughes is their marriage record, dated in Boston 28 November 1888. Continue reading Consider the siblings

News of the Mayflower Descendant

Mayflower Descendant Cover_102915_2When the season turns to Thanksgiving, we often think of the first Pilgrims arriving on these shores aboard the Mayflower. And lately at NEHGS, when we think about the Mayflower, we think specifically of the Mayflower Descendant, of which NEHGS will be the steward for the next ten years. Christopher C. Child, Senior Genealogist of the Newbury Street Press at NEHGS, is the new editor, and busily at work on the first issue, due to mail to subscribers in January 2016. The first Descendant was published in 1899 by George Ernest Bowman, under the auspices of the Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants, which continued to publish it until recently. Continue reading News of the Mayflower Descendant

Deeds: Part One

Click on image to expand it.

Deed formats and terminology vary from colony to colony, county to county, time period to time period and from the handwriting and style of one clerk to another, all of which makes this a complex topic. As a basic primer, we are using a deed from Plymouth County, Massachusetts, chosen because it is short and legible![1] Continue reading Deeds: Part One

Navigating Calvary Cemetery

Clavary Cemetery 1aI am fortunate to be the oldest of eleven grandchildren. Because of my age, I was old enough to remember attending my great-great-aunt’s eightieth birthday party, dancing with my great-grandmother at my aunt’s wedding, and eating several Thanksgiving dinners with my great-great-uncle. I enjoyed spending time with my Lowell and Manhattan relatives; they had really cool stories about playing street games, stealing from ice trucks and, on one specific occasion, a time in which they were detained by police for catcalling an officer on horseback. So, when NEHGS sent me to Ridgefield, Connecticut, for a genealogical fair, I decided to take a slight detour to visit my storytelling ancestors who are buried in Calvary Cemetery in Queens. Continue reading Navigating Calvary Cemetery

Educable children

Medgar Evers 1931
Medgar Evers appears at the bottom of the page.

A couple of weeks ago I was working on an article for The Root, the online magazine, about locating World War I service records for a reader’s Mississippi ancestors. Knowing that the original service records are not digitized, but instead are housed at the National Archives in St. Louis, Missouri, I searched the Digital Archives of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History for any online collections that might assist the reader.[1] My search was ultimately successful in that the MDAH has uploaded veterans’ service cards for World War I, but I also stumbled across a curious collection that I thought might interest our Vita Brevis readers: Educable Children Records (Mississippi), 1850–1894; 1906–1965. Continue reading Educable children

X marks the spot

Chart for male inheritance. Courtesy of

In my recent lectures on DNA, I have discussed the nature of X chromosome inheritance. Owing to the fact that males inherit Y chromosomes from their fathers (who received it only from their fathers, etc.), it’s a very specific gender-linked pattern of inheritance. The same is not true for the X chromosome. (Mitochondrial DNA, which is inherited female-to-female, is a different part of our DNA, and not the same as the X chromosome.) Continue reading X marks the spot

Solving a family mystery

Cottuli Pastel PortraitMy mother was born with an unusual last name – Cottuli – which has been both a blessing and a curse for my research. The blessing is that when I find someone with that last name, they always turn out to be related. The curse is that it’s misspelled everywhere and documents can be difficult to find. Recently, however, the uncommon name led to a very happy set of circumstances.

My first cousin, Carl Cottuli, contacted me a couple of months ago and said that a woman in Rhode Island named Keri had reached out to him online. She was cleaning out her stepfather’s desk in Massachusetts and discovered a portrait of a woman, together with an 1896 baptismal certificate for Henrietta Lillian Cottuli. There are no markings on the portrait to identify whether the woman is Henrietta or someone else. Continue reading Solving a family mystery

Westerly, 1900

Westerly street scene
Author’s collection. Westerly, ca. 1905-1937

One day nearly two years ago, I entered a bookstore in my hometown of Westerly, Rhode Island. I had heard the store would be going out of business soon and wanted to take one last look around. After a few minutes, I came across a tan binder on the bottom shelf that had certainly seen better days. Curiously, the binder was a promotional item for Mel Scheib and Co. Wholesale Plumbing of Rapid City, South Dakota. Flipping through the contents of the binder, I found pages and pages of clippings from local newspapers – The Daily Tribune, The Westerly Sun, and The Westerly News (only the Sun remains in business today) – dating from 16 February 1889 to 24 January 1919. Continue reading Westerly, 1900

The Red and White Schoolhouses

Red schoolhouse 1
The Red Schoolhouse in 1932. (My aunt Pauline Church is on the right in the back row.)

When I was perhaps three years old and lively, my mother returned to teaching grades K–8 in a one-room schoolhouse just north of our house in Augusta, Maine, known as the White Schoolhouse. Lacking daycare at the time, she took me with her most days, and I learned the Palmer method of cursive handwriting long before I learned to sit still. I didn’t realize until much later that the school had been a point of contention between my great-great-great-great-grandfather Read and the City’s school board. Continue reading The Red and White Schoolhouses