Expectations are tricky. As genealogists, we should always be on the look-out for new information, recognizing that the data sought may be in a different location, or format, or offer different content than we had expected.
Lately, as I’ve mentioned, I have been playing around with Google searches. A few days ago, I thought I might look for information about my maternal grandfather’s father, a man I’ve grown used to knowing very little about. His name was John Frank Bell (1878-1944), and he managed hotels in Norfolk, Virginia. He was married twice, to my great-grandmother Minnie Estelle Jackson (1876-1935) and to a woman my grandfather always referred to as Marjorie Feller. In my previous research on this second marriage, I had found a woman who seemed to fit the bill, a Marjorie Feller Jarman (1899-1995) who was twenty years Frank Bell’s junior and actually outlived her stepson, who died in 1994. Continue reading
In the 22 January 2014 issue of NEHGS’ Weekly Genealogist, a ‘story of interest’ highlighted the sad plight of 17,000 square feet of old newspapers held by the New York State Library in Albany. Faced with the demand to archive an increasing amount of education department paperwork, the article – “State Library’s Tough Calls on What to Save, What to Shred” – illustrated how once treasured collections are now losing the battle for available storage space. Continue reading
A representative family tree in its original frame, showing the piece, backing board, wooden panel, and glass and frame. Courtesy R. Stanton Avery Special Collections, NEHGS
NEHGS is always looking to acquire family trees to add to our collection. They come to us through donation or purchase, and their condition on arrival varies from pristine and framed to dirty and frayed. Many a family tree crosses the threshold of the Society’s new Conservation Lab, where it is cleaned and repaired, resulting in a piece which can be safely stored or displayed. Continue reading
The Early New England Families Study Project has been well received, and I have already had a number of offers from generous individuals who wish to share their research with the project. I do appreciate the offers, really, but I have to politely decline. Continue reading
David Deaborn (left) consults with a Research Getaway participant
Genealogy is often a solitary pursuit, and increasingly, one that is conducted primarily online. Last week, NEHGS welcomed 26 members and supporters to our research library in Boston for a program that provides three days of in-depth exploration of NEHGS resources. A preparatory webinar provided an overview of the program and tips for preparing for their research trip, such as searching the catalog in advance; making a to-do list and a research plan; and, most importantly, staying flexible. Sometimes the information we discover about our ancestors takes us in a direction we weren’t expecting. Continue reading
I am currently at work processing the Farley Family Papers, a large collection that includes hundreds of letters, photographs, estate records, and military records created by several generations of Farleys in Massachusetts. The wide variety of documents found in the collection creates a vivid picture of what life was like for this family. Among other things, this collection contains two long photographs, originally rolled together and stored in a tube, of the members of the Puddingstone Club, as well as letters from the club’s members to Arthur Christopher Farley (1851-1919). Continue reading
Records of the Reverend Thomas Cheever, 1697-1742, Mss C 1143, R. Stanton Avery Special Collections
Many of us have been betrayed, genealogically speaking, by a source that appears to be reliable but is not. Often the source is reliable for the most part. But that fact gives you no comfort when the information in which you are interested turns out to be incorrect. Continue reading
When I was in school thirty plus years ago, there was a lot of discussion about the differences between history and genealogy – usually with genealogy getting the short end of the stick. The gap between historians and genealogists narrowed once we realized that we all use many of the same sources for similar ends. The differences are in our goals. The historian is trying to interpret the life of communities and does not really need to deal with the details of individuals. The genealogist is dealing with individuals on a fact-by-fact basis and may not feel the need to understand the larger community. To an historian a genealogist might appear to “not see the forest for the trees,” and to a genealogist an historian might “clear cut” the trees they have been nurturing in hopes of finding the forest! Continue reading
Arthur Belforti is shown at left
A current research preoccupation of mine is a photo of my maternal grandfather, Arthur David Belforti (born Achille Alessio Riccardo Belforti, 1902-1996), which my mother recently gave me and which is pictured here. Having had a close relationship with this grandparent, I have always been particularly keen on researching his past and his branch of the family. There is no handwriting on the reverse of the photo, and my mother has no details about it. My first thought upon seeing it was that it might have been taken in or near Detroit. My reasons for believing this were several – 1) before my grandfather was married, he lived in the Detroit area for a couple of years around 1929, drawn there to work at Henry Ford’s newly opened and highly innovative River Rouge plant; 2) his apparent age in the photo seems to match up with that time period; 3) I didn’t recognize the person who sits next to him in the photo, and neither did my mother; and 4) we didn’t recognize the place. My grandfather lived in just three places during his life – Italy, Massachusetts, and Michigan. I’m pretty familiar with the first two, but not so much with the third. Continue reading
Although many Eastern Massachusetts colonial families have been well covered in print, the sons and daughters of those families who moved west are often lost to genealogists. The first stop on their migratory path was often in the woods of Western Massachusetts.
In many respects, Western Massachusetts is a different world from Boston and its environs. In the rural towns of Berkshire, Hampshire, Hampden, and Franklin Counties researchers can easily depart from the paved road in pursuit of a cemetery or family farm. Looking at the area via the satellite view on maps.google.com, Western Massachusetts appears to be mostly green forest, probably much of it rugged terrain, except for the major towns. Continue reading