Monthly Archives: October 2018

The fabric is all

It has been a while since I’ve written an installment about the Rev. Thomas Cary’s diary. Indeed, it has been a while since I’ve written a post about anything, since I’ve been on a five-week trip with my husband along the East Coast as part of his sabbatical. Now I’m back and have loads of great new stuff to share!

The first is my pilgrimage to the Chelsea, Massachusetts, house that Thomas wrote of staying in regularly sometime after his mother’s death. Continue reading The fabric is all

Never too old to celebrate

We all have fond memories of growing up with family around us. As we age, family members pass on, but our memories stay strong – often we find ourselves reminiscing around the holidays. Halloween is one of those holidays that we never grow too old to celebrate!

I grew up in a large neighborhood from the time I was two years old until I graduated from high school. There were always kids around to play with – in fact, I’m still great friends with those same kids! Like most neighborhoods in Massachusetts at that time, we always had a place to go trick-or-treating that was safe and close-by. We had the house playing creepy music, the house that gave out king-size candy bars (my Dad worked for Nestle!), and even a neighbor who would hide in his front bushes to jump out and scare us at the right moment. Continue reading Never too old to celebrate

Sitting pretty

Sitting in an estate of 10,000 acres, Castle Howard is generally considered the finest private residence in Yorkshire and the first great British house of the eighteenth century. Built to the designs of Sir John Vanbrugh, one of England’s greatest architects, for Charles Howard, 3rd Earl of Carlisle, the house cost the immense sum of £78,000 (approximately £154 million in inflation-adjusted values) and is noted for its great dome, the first on a private house in Britain. Continue reading Sitting pretty

History repeats

The Boston Red Sox in 1916. Courtesy of

Between 1919 and 2003, a Boston loss in the fall classic of the World Series was, sadly, a familiar occurrence. In the decades before 1919, things were different. The Boston Americans rallied to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates in the first World Series in 1903. During the second decade of the twentieth century, the Red Sox were alive and well with pitching, fielding, and batting as they won the 1912, 1915, 1916, and 1918 World Series. This month, one hundred and two years of history repeat. In the 2018 World Series, the Boston Red Sox are once more playing the Los Angeles Dodgers. Continue reading History repeats

Something about Sarah

Marriage of Ichabod Bumpus and Sarah Coombs

She was right there, exactly where I had left her – twenty or so years ago. Even now, she seemed to stare back at me from her vantage point in time, one made up of long-ago names and foggy dates in an old ahnentafel. I like to say I’d forgotten all about Sarah, but the truth is I never have, as the “who of just who” Sarah was in this world has always nagged at me. I have to believe that Sarah would have known this about me, too, figuring that I’d always make my way back to study her life again. I guess it’s because Sarah’s life looks to have had no beginning or end to it; only “a middle,” if you will. It’s been those fuzzy edges in the middle that have kept drawing me back in – and leaving me wanting to know more about Sarah. Continue reading Something about Sarah

Keeping up with the Joneses

Hannah Maria (Salisbury) Olmsted

My earlier discussion of genealogical uncertainty focused on uncertain genealogical connections. This discussion will explore uncertainty in biographical information about ancestors or relatives.

Years ago, when I started exploring the ancestry of my father’s great-grandmother, Hannah Maria (Salisbury) Olmsted (1829–1887), I fairly soon found an abundance of information in Richard LeBaron Bowen’s four-volume Early Rehoboth: Documented Historical Studies.[1] In particular, I learned the gruesome details of the death of my Salisbury immigrant ancestor William and his oldest son, John, brother of my ancestor Samuel Salisbury, in the contentious time at the beginning of King Philip’s War. Because of tense relations with the natives, most English colonists had left their homes and gathered in fortified garrisons. Continue reading Keeping up with the Joneses

Reuniting families

My biggest fear was marrying someone in the military.

I couldn’t fathom the idea of being a military wife with all its different aspects. I didn’t like the idea of my fate and my husband’s fate being decided by the winds of politics and world commotion. I didn’t like the idea that, any day, they could need him and deploy his unit, and I would be stuck at home, alone, waiting for him to come back. One question haunted me as I was dating and falling in love with the soldier who would become my husband:

What if he left and never came back? Continue reading Reuniting families

‘An ornament to the city’

Regina Shober Gray by [Edward L.] Allen, ca. 1860. Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society, Item PP231.236
The third and final entry in the Regina Shober Gray[1] diary on the death of her sister Lizzie[2] turns from private grief to the public response to the news.

61 Bowdoin Street, Boston, Wednesday, 13 December 1865: We think now that Lizzie began weeks ago to realize or at least to fear her sickness was a mortal one. While we continued to hope her exhaustion was largely due to nervous depression and would pass off with the nausea, she was sadly conscious of the inward sapping of the springs of life, and her thoughts instinctively dwelt upon ideas of death & burial. She roused from a doze some weeks since, and said “I have had a vision – you will laugh at me, and say it was a dream – but I saw Wesley & Joseph” (my brother’s two men-servants) “come along the entry and into the room with the tressels which were used for John,[3] and set them down here, saying, ‘They must be ready for Miss Lizzie.’”

“Oh, honey,” said Sallie [Shober],[4] who was with her, “of course it was a dream, you are so restless & feverish.” Continue reading ‘An ornament to the city’

A well-kept secret

This week I received my Fall issue of The Genealogist [TG], published by the American Society of Genealogists (ASG). It struck me that this might be one of genealogy’s best kept secrets.

TG has been published twice a year over 32 years. It was founded in 1980 by Neil D. Thompson, FASG,[1] and Neil edited the first ten volumes through 1989. In 1997, the magazine was revived by ASG under the editorship of Charles M. Hansen, FASG, and Gale Ion Harris, FASG, who have produced volumes 11 (1997) through 32 (2018).  A full list of articles published in volumes 1–31, and sample articles, are posted on the society’s website: Continue reading A well-kept secret

A chance family reunion

Camp residents at Feldafing. Images courtesy of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Few things can split apart families like war, and for Jewish families World War II was akin to a tornado: a whirling vortex that broke apart structures and families, generations or centuries old, and scattered any remaining pieces across the countryside. Of those that survived, many could not rebuild the families that had been lost. The family of Leo and Bertha Portnoj, and their three children, was one of those directly in the path of the storm. Continue reading A chance family reunion