All posts by Anna Todd

About Anna Todd

Anna holds a Master’s degree in history from the University of Connecticut where she specialized in gender and law in colonial New England. She completed her Bachelor’s degree in history with a minor in English at the University of Southern Mississippi. Prior to joining the research services staff at NEHGS she worked as a page at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center at the University of Connecticut and volunteered with the McCain Library and Archives at the University of Southern Mississippi, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, the Eudora Welty House, and the National History Day Organization. Her interests include colonial America, New England, Pennsylvania, and the South, and she enjoys infusing family histories with interesting information found in court records, wills, city directories, and other supplementary sources.

Poor relief records

Sheldon Poor House 1860
Sheldon Poor House Association, 1860. Click on images to expand them.

Vita Brevis readers are likely all too familiar with the problem of brick walls in genealogical research. Many are aware of the uses of probate and estate records, but what if your ancestors are not to be found in the probate records of the area where they died? There can be any number of reasons, for economic conditions in the colonial and early Federal period were often unstable, and a family could find itself experiencing periods of both comfort and destitution at one point or another. Fortunately, there are a number of techniques to track less wealthy ancestors, both in the interest of making family connections and learning something of the reality of their lives. Continue reading Poor relief records

Educable children

Medgar Evers 1931
Medgar Evers appears at the bottom of the page.

A couple of weeks ago I was working on an article for The Root, the online magazine, about locating World War I service records for a reader’s Mississippi ancestors. Knowing that the original service records are not digitized, but instead are housed at the National Archives in St. Louis, Missouri, I searched the Digital Archives of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History for any online collections that might assist the reader.[1] My search was ultimately successful in that the MDAH has uploaded veterans’ service cards for World War I, but I also stumbled across a curious collection that I thought might interest our Vita Brevis readers: Educable Children Records (Mississippi), 1850–1894; 1906–1965. Continue reading Educable children

Orphan trains

Orphan Train PictureI received a phone call the other day from my parents as they were driving through Kansas on a road trip. They wanted to tell me about a curious roadside advertisement they had seen that they thought would interest me: the National Orphan Train Complex in Concordia, Kansas. I had never heard of this museum, let along its subject, so I decided to do some sleuthing. What I discovered was an intriguing, controversial, and apparently slightly obscure facet of American history. Continue reading Orphan trains

A dream come true

Colonial LawColonial Massachusetts records are a family historian’s dream come true. From the beginning, early Bay colonists meticulously tracked the goings on of their communities, leaving records of government and community alike. These habits have resulted in a veritable trove of records available for genealogical pursuit, mostly aptly demonstrated in the large Massachusetts Vital Records to 1850 collection. However, vital records were not the only documents that these early settlers left behind. Surviving court records for some early Massachusetts counties are quite detailed; despite the wealth of information they contain, they are often overlooked by family historians. Continue reading A dream come true

Navigating German language records

Old German TypeWhile searching for online records for Bremen, Germany, I came across a digitized collection of Bremen address books spanning the period 1794–1955 with the help of the website German Roots. The Bremer Adressbücher 1794-1955 (Bremen Address Directories) database has been digitized by the State and University Library of Bremen, and can provide a wealth of information about your Bremen ancestors that might not be found in American records.

These directories can be browsed by surname and street number, like the city directories published for Massachusetts. The website and the directories are both in German, but you can use the Google page translator function on your browser or simply open a second tab to Google Translate for words that you need help deciphering. Once you begin attempting to translate the actual record, it can be helpful to keep handy a chart of German letters and common abbreviations such as the one at left.[1] Continue reading Navigating German language records

A sojourn in California

Adrian Todd
Adrian Sidney Todd (1918-1959)

When I contemplated the subject of my first post, I decided that I should write about the person who sparked my genealogical interest in the first place: my paternal grandfather, Adrian Sidney Todd. Adrian died young, and I never had the chance to meet him, so I thought I would use genealogy to see what I could find out for myself. He was born 6 February 1918 in Georgia to Adrian Sidney and Susie (Stanley) Todd, and served in the U.S. Marine Corps in both World War II and Korea. Continue reading A sojourn in California