Monthly Archives: July 2016

‘My ancestor the Indian Princess’

Siekman 20
Pretty Nose at Fort Keogh in Montana (1879).

Many of us have family lore about an elusive Native ancestor somewhere far back on our family tree. Over the past year in Research Services we have received about a dozen formal requests to search for a Native ancestor and other inquiries over the phone. Often these requests are based on stories passed down through the generations or when DNA results display some Native American ancestry in an autosomal test.

As someone with a background in American Indian studies who has worked with Native nations in both New York and Arizona, I often struggle with how to respond to these inquiries in a meaningful way that is both respectful of living Native communities and to the individuals seeking information on whether or not their ancestors were a part of that history. Continue reading ‘My ancestor the Indian Princess’

Are we having fun yet?

Alicia Crane WilliamsI am definitely regretting getting into the “ladies” sketches for the Early New England Families Study Project. While working on the sketch for William Lord of Saybrook, Connecticut, who had fifteen children by two wives, I recognized that his second wife also had at least one child by her first husband, John Brown of Swansea, which qualifies her for an Early New England Families sketch of her own. Continue reading Are we having fun yet?

‘Supposed to be upright and prosperous’

[Author’s note: This series of excerpts from Regina Shober Gray’s diary began here.]

PP231.236 Regina Shober Gray. Not dated.
Regina Shober Gray by [Edward L.] Allen, ca. 1860. Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society, Item PP231.236
While their European sojourn during the summer of 1878 represented a break from routine, the Gray party[1] welcomed news from home, even if some of it was rather disheartening:

Hotel Victoria, Interlaken, Friday, 26 July 1878: A dull, rainy day in very small, incommodious rooms – Mary [Gray]’s especially gloomy – the poorest hotel for its pretensions we have been in. We left Giessbach[2] yesterday – a clouded sail on Brienzer-See[3] – and 10 minutes rail road ride brought us here. We left the Linzee party at Giessbach, and find the Curtises left their hotel here for Bern several days ago.

A most welcome lot of letters, at least 2 doz., awaited us here after our fortnight’s letter-famine – encouraging letters from Drs. Brown & Bethune[4] to our dear Dr. [Gray], also from F.C.G., E.G, & H.G.;[5] and to me from R.G.,[6] R.P.W.,[7] S.F.G.,[8] [and] P.M.C.[9] Continue reading ‘Supposed to be upright and prosperous’

DNA and your pet

Coco Braen

Perhaps you already know this, but out there in the World Wide Web there are many websites devoted to helping people discover their pet’s ancestral DNA.

With the technological advances in DNA testing, humans have started to use it more and more to help understand better where they come from and, especially from a genealogical stand point, to help supplement or sometimes define their ancestral research.

So why not do the same for your pet? Continue reading DNA and your pet

Hunting for a church

First Presbyterian Church of Chester NY
The First Presbyterian Church of Chester, New York.

While working in the Ask-a-Genealogist questions last week, I found myself looking at questions on where to turn for records to prove the baptisms or residences of ancestors, which are actually rather typical. However, in offering guidance to these individuals, I realized how little the hunt was for the ancestor and how important the hunt for the church or town would be. Continue reading Hunting for a church

Italian emigration to one Rhode Island town

Westerly image
Courtesy of the New York Public Library

Growing up in Westerly, Rhode Island, a town in which more than 30% of residents identify as having Italian ancestry, I was always surrounded by Italian culture.[1] To this day, many people from other towns are surprised to hear that my high school offered Italian language courses, a fairly uncommon option. Even fewer had heard of Soupy, the nickname for soppressata, the cured meat which originated in Calabria that hangs in the basements and attics of Westerly residents during certain times of the year. (The meat curing process requires outdoor temperatures of 45 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit.)[2] Continue reading Italian emigration to one Rhode Island town

Overseas military naturalizations

Bernard 1For a recent research case, I was trying to locate a naturalization record which had been listed in an index to the Declarations of Intention, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York 1917-1950, at However, when searching through the actual records, I found that the file number for this record was attached to a record with another person’s name. Continue reading Overseas military naturalizations

Beautiful boxes

Rossi 1
Drawing of Clam Shell box.

When you stop to think about it, boxes make for very special enclosures. I’m sitting here, typing this blog and thinking of the many ways boxes are utilized on a daily basis. For example, there are mail boxes, tool boxes, boxes made for chocolates, shipping boxes, bread boxes, hat boxes, and shoe boxes. The list is long and impressive. Continue reading Beautiful boxes

Maine’s lost colony

St George's Fort Popham
Courtesy of Other variations of this map exist, and may be found online.

Recently a patron asked me why he was unable to find information on his ancestors who arrived before the Mayflower. I explained that Plymouth Colony was the first permanently settled colony in New England. What I told him was technically true, but I later discovered that an earlier colony had been established in Maine. During the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, England, France, and Spain all had their eyes on the New World, hoping to take advantage its great wealth of resources. Continue reading Maine’s lost colony

Road trips

PA 1984 mapIt is summer time and the siren call of the road echoes through my mind: “Come explore! Leave your desk and your clutter. Forget the phone, pack your car and come explore!” When we were children, summer meant road trips to far off and “exotic” places such as Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Quebec. One memorable summer we took a four-week camping trip across the country from Washington, D.C., to the Colorado Rockies to explore the old Moffat Railroad over the Continental Divide. Four squirming children and two adults crammed into a Dodge Sedan towing a trailer with the tent and other camping gear (no pop-up camper for our family). Continue reading Road trips