Monthly Archives: January 2016

ICYMI: The disappearing Leveretts

[Editor’s note: This post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 15 January 2014.]

Alicia Crane WilliamsI cannot imagine the faith that John Leverett and his wives, Hannah Hudson and Sarah Sedgwick, must have had to cope with deaths of so many of their children. By his two wives, John was the father of eighteen children, eleven of whom died as infants or young children. Six of these children were given the name Sarah after their mother, and five of them died before the sixth survived. Three sons were named John, none of whom lived to grow up.

John Leverett kept meticulous records of the births and deaths of his children in his Bible, noting the time of day and sometimes the tide. The record of his seventeenth child, one of the Sarahs, states that she was born at “10 clock in the evening at Low water” on 30 June 1670, baptized on 3 July, and “departed 16 day july at 2 a clock afternoon, halfe flood.” Continue reading ICYMI: The disappearing Leveretts

Reflections on connections

[Editor’s note: Henry B. Hoff, C.G., F.A.S.G., is editor of The New England Historical and Genealogical Register. Excerpts from some of his Vita Brevis posts can be read below.]

Writers-Guide-front-cover--webFrom Just how reliable is that source?: Many of us have been betrayed, genealogically speaking, by a source that appears to be reliable but is not. Often the source is reliable for the most part. But that fact gives you no comfort when the information in which you are interested turns out to be incorrect…

Often the betrayal is of our own making. We rely on a source to be complete and it isn’t. For example, the Barbour Collection of Connecticut Vital Records does not cover all the towns in Connecticut or even all the records of the towns it includes – yet it is easy to forget these caveats and assume no record exists of a particular birth, marriage, or death. Continue reading Reflections on connections

The last survivor

San Francisco City Hall
The remains of San Francisco’s City Hall, 20 April 1906. Courtesy of WIkimedia

“It was 5:14 o’clock in the morning of Wednesday, April 18 [1906]. Nearly half a million people on the western edge of the American continent awoke suddenly with a roaring in their ears and a sensation in every nerve that struck indescribable terror to their souls.”[1] On the fateful morning of the San Francisco earthquake, and in the troubling days that followed, more than 3,000 citizens lost their lives.[2]

In addition to the tragic loss of human life, the effects of another significant loss have been felt in the 110 years since that disastrous day. Continue reading The last survivor

The skipped generation

Alicia Crane WilliamsThree more sketches (16 pages) in the Early New England Families Study Project have just been posted – John Carter of Woburn; Samuel Maverick of Noddles Island, Boston, Maine, New York, etc.; and his wife Amyas (Cole) (Thomson) Maverick.

John Carter is the first example in the Early New England Families Study Project of a second-generation New Englander who arrived with his parents during the “second,” unpublished, half of the Great Migration. This results in the anomaly that John Carter’s sketch is published before his father’s, which might confuse researchers assuming that the two projects are seamlessly synced. Continue reading The skipped generation

Old genealogies in the digital age

Henry Stoddard Ruggles
Portrait of Henry Stoddard Ruggles, author of The Ruggles Family in England and America (1898).

For the past six months, I have been devoting much of my time as Metadata Librarian at NEHGS to making older genealogies from our Boston research library available online in the NEHGS Digital Library and Archive. These genealogies, most of them originally published in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, are rare or unique to NEHGS, and have not been previously available online.

By adding them to our Digital Library, we hope that we can not only increase access to these hard-to-find resources, but also better preserve the physical books themselves, which are often suffering from the effects of brittle, acidic paper and deteriorating bindings. We have added items ranging from short, privately printed pamphlets – such as the five-page Family and Antecedents of William Henry Rayner and Jeanie Ann Balmer – to longer, more comprehensive treatises, like Henry Stoddard Ruggles’s The Ruggles Family in England and America. Continue reading Old genealogies in the digital age

Strategies for Scottish and Irish research

[Editor’s note: Katrina Fahy has written a number of posts on researching her Scottish, Irish, and German ancestors. Some of her techniques – and successes – are excerpted below.]

William Muir in 1900From Finding William Muir: When I began working as a genealogist, my mother expressed great interest in learning more about her father’s family: the Muirs. While she had much information on her mother’s side of the family, which was quite large, she knew little about her father’s side of the family beyond her grandparents, so I began there… Continue reading Strategies for Scottish and Irish research

Broadway and points west

Harriet Hoctor by Dorothy Wilding.

I find that, once I start collecting something, the collection itself tends to dictate its own expansion. Put another way, I don’t always know what will interest me until I start looking at the items on either side of the object I seek to acquire. This is true of genealogical research, where it’s always a good idea to browse the library shelves around the book you are hunting, but of course it’s also true of the photographs I’ve been collecting recently. And, so – given the theme of the last two days’ posts at Vita Brevis – it’s time for another research exercise!

All of these photographs have something, or someone, in common – not pictured, of course. They represent a genus, the Broadway showgirl, that has sadly become extinct. Continue reading Broadway and points west

A thousand words

Alice Selig Harris and friends

Coming from a family of active amateur photographers, the (still) new digital age of photography has significantly changed the way I look at and convey my world, its events, my life, and my family. Gone are the days of, “Oh, no, I just got to the end of a 36-exposure roll and missed the perfect picture I’ll never get again.” With three expensive cameras sitting in my closet collecting dust, like many of us I now use my smart phone for most of my photographic pursuits. This is not such a bad thing: it’s always in my pocket ready to get, as DeWitt Jones says, “not just a good frame, but a great frame.” Continue reading A thousand words

A Telluride story

Alice and Kenny
Alice Pheasey and Kenneth McLean on their wedding day.

There are many stories that reside in the papers and photographs our forebears set aside to keep. These stories sometimes lack a key, but here is one that, thanks to a loving sister, retains its general outline.

Kenneth Angus McLean was born in 1873 in a farmhouse on Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, the youngest of nine children. As a young man, Kenny left the family farm to join his older sister Christine in Boston, where he would have a wider choice of occupations. He didn’t last long in the confines of the city. Kenny, like so many others, decided to seek his fortune out west. He took out a $1,000 life insurance policy, named his sister as beneficiary, and got on a westbound train. Continue reading A Telluride story

Three years in

Alicia Crane WilliamsWe are just about to start the fourth year of the Early New England Families Study Project. There are presently 72 sketches online, and now the first of the hard copy publications covering 50 families is available as well. New sketches scheduled to be uploaded in January include Samuel Maverick and his wife Amias (Cole) (Thompson) Maverick.

These sketches have definitely developed into far more detailed and complex endeavors than we originally conceived. It isn’t that we thought it was going to be easy, but we did have some hopes that “summarizing” a couple of centuries of collected works on these families would be simpler that it is turning out to be. So why is that? Continue reading Three years in