Monthly Archives: November 2015

Hockey and Canada, 1914-18

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The Champion Hockey Team, 1917. Canada Dept. of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada

There is one thing that many people know about me, and that is that when I am not busily researching family trees and helping patrons here at the New England Historic Genealogical Society’s research center, the odds are pretty good that I am off somewhere watching hockey or studying its history. In fact, I just returned from a trip to Montréal to see the Montréal Canadiens beat the Boston Bruins. Had I known then of the exhibit currently on display at the Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa, I might have headed west, once I crossed the border, instead of going on to Montréal. However, it wasn’t until I had returned and was finalizing some pieces for a webinar that I saw the item on the website of the Library and Archives Canada (LAC). Continue reading Hockey and Canada, 1914-18

Collateral relations

Margaret Steward query in caseMy grandfather’s box of family papers continues to yield treasures – and some fresh mysteries. Among the former (and the latter) are a pair of small leather traveling photo frames: one, the larger, is maroon and holds a photograph of a middle-aged woman; the other (biscuit colored) shows an older man being circled by a dog.

I suspect that the subjects of this pair of photos are my Steward great-grandparents,[1] although it is certainly possible that the woman is not Daisy Steward (1861–1951) but one of her sisters: Katharine Livingston (Beeckman) Lorillard (1855–1941), Helen (Beeckman) Lyman (1858–1938), or Martha Codwise (Beeckman) French (1863–1951). Continue reading Collateral relations

“Ask a lady her age!”

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With my grandmother, the granddaughter of Andrew and Mary Smith, on her 80th birthday.

For the past two weeks, many NEHGS staff members celebrated birthdays, bringing to mind my birthday celebration last year. At the restaurant, our waiter announced my birthday to the entire restaurant and led them in singing to me. While that was embarrassing, it was fine until he asked my age. I answered with the old adage, “You know, it’s not polite to ask a lady her age.” As a genealogist, however, that answer left me feeling disappointed in myself. Where would we be today if our ancestors always responded to that question in such a way? Continue reading “Ask a lady her age!”


Recruit vs. soldier (1)My ancestry is replete with American patriots, soldiers – veterans. From Anthony Morse Jr., a lieutenant in the militia at Newbury, Massachusetts, in the 1660s, to Samuel Morse, a soldier in the War of 1812; from Thomas Morse, a patriot in the American Revolution, to Colonius Morse, a private in the 19th Massachusetts Regiment during the Civil War,[1] I have ancestors who served in most major U.S. conflicts from the colonial period to the 1970s. I often wonder what life was like for my family in these times of turmoil. How did war affect the young men who served? How did it change them? Continue reading Transformations

Piano lessons

Alicia Crane WilliamsThat pile of photocopied original documents you have sitting on your table looks especially mountainous when you start compiling genealogical text. How much of it needs to be included? How should it be presented? What is important and what is not?

Before you can properly transcribe, abstract, or translate records, you need to know what they say. What are the parts of a deed, of a will, what is an “execution” from the court? These can all be topics for future Vita Brevis posts. In the meantime, look at examples of abstracts in the Early New England Families Study Project sketches for ideas. Continue reading Piano lessons

Preparing to digitize archival collections

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From the Rufus Chapman Collection.

This is part two of a series on digitizing our special collections. Click here to read the first post.

Before we send some of the items from our R. Stanton Avery Special Collections to third parties for scanning, there is work we must do to make this digitization possible. Sally Benny, Curator of Digital Collections, is in charge of organizing and preparing the collections before they are sent to the scanner. Continue reading Preparing to digitize archival collections

Torch-light processions

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

History is full of portentous moments – in retrospect. America, 1860: To us, today, it is axiomatic to say that, with the election of Abraham Lincoln, the nation teetered on the verge of civil war. Yet for one diarist, writing late in the year, the potential outcome of the presidential election was of very limited interest. Regina Shober Gray’s[1] near-daily diary entries take no notice of the rival candidates’ campaigns until early October. Her earliest mention is so vague that it would be easy to miss: Continue reading Torch-light processions

Checking family stories

It’s funny how family stories take shape. The story of my great-great-grandfather’s business failure during the Crash of 1873, for instance: I had assumed (based on what information?) that the family at once retrenched, leaving their house on Fifth Avenue in a genteel retreat to my great-great-great-grandmother’s household around the corner, at 13 West Twenty-first Street, and that it was here my great-grandfather grew up. Yet a glance at my notes on the 1880 Census indicates that, on 2 June 1880, John Steward was the head of a large household at 152 Fifth Avenue which included his sons, mother- and sisters-in-law, son-in-law, grandchildren, and several servants.[1] Continue reading Checking family stories

New England planters

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Charles Lawrence’s 1759 proclamation

In my last Vita Brevis post, I wrote about some of the best sources to help identify your Loyalist ancestors. But before the Loyalists fled to Canada after the American Revolution, another important group settled Maritime Canada: the New England Planters. This often overlooked group of New Englanders (and others) left a cultural and political impact on Canadian history.

After the expulsion of the Acadians in 1750s, the British government was eager to resettle the area. In the fall of 1758, the Governor of Nova Scotia, Charles Lawrence, published a proclamation in the Boston Gazette welcoming proposals for the settlement of the now vacant lands. Just a few months later, in January of 1759, Lawrence published another proclamation, detailing the terms of settlement. Continue reading New England planters

Border crossings

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Line house in Canaan, Vermont/Hereford, Quebec. Courtesy of Matthew Farfan, The Vermont-Quebec Border: Life on the Line.

As many genealogical researchers know, it is hardly unusual to have a person listed as born in one state on a census record, then ten years later, listed as having been born somewhere else. For instance, it is not unheard of to see a person listed as born in Virginia in 1910, West Virginia in 1920, and Kentucky in 1940. This is due largely to the fluid nature of state borders until relatively recently. Continue reading Border crossings