All posts by Meaghan E.H. Siekman

About Meaghan E.H. Siekman

Meaghan holds a Ph.D. in history from Arizona State University where her focus was public history and American Indian history. She earned her B.A. in history from Union College in Schenectady, New York, the city where she grew up. Prior to joining the NEHGS team, Meaghan worked as the Curator of the Fairbanks House in Dedham, Massachusetts, as an archivist at the Heard Museum Library in Phoenix, Arizona, and wrote a number of National Register Nominations and Cultural Landscape Inventories for the National Park Service. Meaghan is passionate about connecting people with the past in meaningful and lasting ways. She enjoys finding interesting anecdotes about an ancestor to help bring the past to life.

Researching Your African American Family

1850 United States Slave Schedule,
1850 United States Slave Schedule,

Black History Month is a great time to get inspired to research your family’s unique contributions to American History. African American genealogical research has distinctive challenges but can also produce rewarding results. Getting started is often the most difficult step. While it is usually easy to trace an African American family in the years following the Civil War, it can prove difficult to trace a family before the war. Here some suggestions. Continue reading Researching Your African American Family

It’s a small world

Siekman family treasuresI come from a long line of family historians, and we are always brainstorming ideas to get other family members interested in our ancestors. My mission this year was to spark an interest in my four-year-old cousin (soon to be five, as she will tell me). She may be too young to understand charts or many of the details of our history, but I wanted to find a way to give her an idea of who we are – and where we came from – in a way that was exciting and approachable. I decided that we would give her a tour around the world of all the places her ancestors came from without ever having to leave her living room. Her gift is one that can be easily changed to fit your unique family background,  an easy and fun way to get kids interested in their family roots by introducing them to cultural elements from the places of their ancestry. Continue reading It’s a small world

Family Ghosts

Bump Tavern 2
The Bump Tavern. Courtesy of The Farmers’ Museum

October is a magical month when the leaves turn brilliant colors and start decorating the ground as the nights get cooler and darker. No wonder it is a time filled with hearty food, hot cider, and spooky stories told around a fire. Perhaps one reason why people embrace the autumn so readily is the connection to family the season inspires. Throughout the years many fall activities have led me to new discoveries about my ancestors and the ways I can connect with them, particularly at historic places. Continue reading Family Ghosts

Insights from my great-grandmother’s diary

Siekman 10If your family is anything like mine, you heard plenty of stories about your great-grandparents from your parents. From those stories I have been able to get a sense of their personalities and how they lived, but it is a view limited to how my parents knew them as their grandparents. Learning who your ancestors were as young adults is difficult, since most standard documents do not reveal an individual’s personality. My mother has a genealogical file on each of my relatives, where she keeps news clippings or other documents pertaining to their lives, which I often refer to while I am researching my family. During my last visit home, while searching through her files, I discovered the diary of my great-grandmother, Gladys Tompkins, from the year 1924. Continue reading Insights from my great-grandmother’s diary

Musings from the Catskills

Siekman 1
“The Farm,” 17 October 2009

I spent my childhood at our family home in the Catskill Mountains in New York. My roots in the Catskills date back to the mid-eighteenth-century, when the first of the Holdridge line of my family appeared in the area. As far as we can tell, the Holdridges came from Connecticut, settling first in Columbia County, New York, before finally establishing a line spanning many generations in Greene County. While my mother’s family has lived in these mountains for two centuries, it was my father’s family home, which we lovingly refer to as “The Farm,” where I still spend many lazy days of summer. It is a special place for me which connects numerous points of my ancestry. Continue reading Musings from the Catskills