All posts by Mollie Braen

About Mollie Braen

A graduate of the University of Denver, including a semester at the University of Glasgow in Scotland, Mollie majored in Art History and minored in Marketing and History; she plans to continue her education with an MBA in Non-Profit Management. Mollie performs administrative work for Research Services, supporting the researchers in ordering microfilm, managing correspondence with constituents, and organizing research materials. In her free time, Mollie, who recently moved to Boston from Los Angeles, enjoys travelling. With a family home on Lake Sebago in Maine, she often travels there as well as other parts of New England.

Rags to riches

Courtesy of

Ching Shih, born Shi Xianggu in the Guangdong Province of China in 1775, started out underprivileged, a young woman forced into a life of prostitution. But with tenacity, cunning, and sheer force, she grew into one of the most powerful and successful pirates in the history of the world.

In the brothels of Canton where she worked in her youth, she met a notorious pirate, Cheng I, from the famous family of Cheng pirates that had, for many years, terrorized the China seas. Continue reading Rags to riches

A pair of firsts

Bessie Coleman in 1922. Courtesy of

Recently, as I was browsing Google, I noticed their doodle for the day.[1] It was honoring Elizabeth “Bessie” Coleman, who was born 26 January 1892. She was the first woman of African American and Native American descent to receive her pilot’s license, and she was also the first person of African American and Native American descent to receive an international pilot’s license. Continue reading A pair of firsts

In praise of Sybil Ludington

Image via Karen Kelly,

Paul Revere’s famous ride is often the jumping off point for thinking about the Revolutionary War. But there is a lesser known patriot – a woman, too – who helped win the war and changed the course of history.

Her name was Sybil Ludington, and she was born 5 April 1761 in Connecticut as the eldest child of Henry and Abigail Ludington. On the rainy night of 25 April 1777, as British troops were advancing to attack Danbury, Connecticut, Sybil, only 16 years old at the time, took off on her famous 40 mile horseback ride to alert approximately 400 militiamen under the control of her father, Colonel Henry Ludington. She was chosen for the task because the original messenger, who had ridden to notify her father of the advancing British troops, was too tired from his first trip and could not proceed. Continue reading In praise of Sybil Ludington

Solvang revisited

Courtesy of the Elverhøj Museum of History & Art

Back in 2002 or so, my mother and I took a trip to the small town of Solvang, California. Just north west of Santa Barbara, in the Santa Ynez Valley, this small town of 2.4 square miles is modelled on the traditions and cultural landscape of Denmark.

The land Solvang sits on was originally inhabited by the Chumash tribe. During the Spanish Mission Expansion in the 1770s, Father Estévan Tapis founded the Mission Santa Inés, around which the center of town grew up. Continue reading Solvang revisited

A growing sense of community

charleston-gazetteThe Stamp Act, passed in 1765 by the British Parliament, was a levied tax on legal documents, almanacs, and newspapers – basically, any form of paper used in the American colonies. The reason Britain passed the Stamp Act was to pay for the British troops stationed in North America, there to “protect” the colonists.

The tax was to be paid in the British form of money, sterling, not the paper money the colonists used. This was the first direct tax that Parliament had used on the colonists. (The Sugar Act, passed in 1764, was a tax on trade rather than a tax on the everyday life of the colonists.) Continue reading A growing sense of community

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

A family tradition

Mollie Braen Peleg
Courtesy Hill Farmstead Brewery.

Last March, I made the move from Los Angeles to Boston. It was a pretty big change: not just the fact that, for about six months of the year, really cold stuff falls from the sky, but definitely the history, culture, and way of life mean an adjustment from the large, fast-paced, relatively new city of Los Angeles, founded 4 September 1781 (compared to Boston, founded 7 September 1630).

And yet I bring my own history to Boston. Not only was my mother born and raised in Boston and the surrounding areas, but my parents were actually married in Salem thirty years ago this August. But my parents weren’t the first Massachusetts settlers: my great-great-grandparents on my maternal side were the first to come to this country, settling in Revere, Massachusetts, in 1900. Continue reading A family tradition