All posts by Ann Lawthers

About Ann Lawthers

Ann G. Lawthers assists our library patrons in enhancing their research skills and in bringing alive their family histories. She is a graduate of Wellesley College, the Harvard School of Public Health and has completed the Boston University Certificate in Genealogical Research program. She has conducted genealogical projects as an independent researcher. Ann is familiar with resources for Massachusetts, Vermont, Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey; and has research experience with Quebec and the Canadian Atlantic Provinces, Ireland and Germany.

Death by hiccups

Fred and Jenny Homer
Back row, left to right: Eva Homer Keck, Bert Keck, Jennie Stinson Homer, Fred Lincoln Homer. Front row, left to right: Edna Stephenson Fields, Frank Fields, ???, Sarah Stephenson Ely.

When beginning genealogical research, we learn about the types of records that are likely to contain the information we seek and where those records might be located, i.e. in what repository. What we sometimes fail to appreciate, however, is the value of a stash of family materials – letters, diaries, newspaper clippings – that can hold the answer to our questions. Case in point: my great-grandfather’s cause of death.

As an inquisitive 12-year-old, I once asked my grandmother if she knew how her father had died, since he had passed away four months before she was born. “Oh, he died from the hiccups,” she replied.  Continue reading Death by hiccups

The name DID change

Richelieu River watershed
Figure 1: Richelieu River watershed.

You’ve probably heard the story: “My ancestor’s name was changed at Ellis Island!” But you also probably know that this is a myth; immigration officials at Ellis Island did not randomly alter incoming passengers’ names. However, the surnames and given names of one group of immigrants, French-Canadians, frequently did change when our ancestors crossed the border.

Throughout the centuries, migration from Quebec was driven by poor agricultural conditions, overpopulation, and inadequate employment opportunities. Continue reading The name DID change