Ideas for Cuban research

Havana Cathedral
The Cathedral in Havana

During my career in genealogy, I’ve become somewhat expert on a variety of subjects, even Cuban research – unexpected, perhaps, but true! Research at a distance – and for Americans, all Cuban research must currently be at a distance – is a challenge, but Brigham Young University’s Guide to Cuba may be a good start for references to publications and websites related to Cuban research. Continue reading

Cheat Sheets: Part Three

Alicia Crane WilliamsThe first nine steps in my process for creating entries for the Early New England Families Study Project are covered here and here.

10. Town Histories, Genealogical Dictionaries, Town Records (Town). I can access almost any classic published history on-line, many of which include genealogical sections, as well as standard “dictionaries” of families associated with a town, such as Bond’s Watertown and Wyman’s Charlestown Genealogies. An essential regional source not available online (but available as a reprint from NEHGS) is Genealogical Dictionary of Maine and New Hampshire. Published records of a town – other than vital records – such as Jeremy Bangs’ records for Sandwich (mentioned in an earlier post), also fall into this category. Continue reading

A question of attribution

Glidden ArchitectA by-product of finishing a project and publishing the results is that one moves on – without necessarily losing interest in the subject matter.  I spent about five months immersed in the study of my great-grandfather Edward Hughes Glidden’s architectural oeuvre, producing two books at Shutterfly.com about my findings: the first, E. H. Glidden: Baltimore Architect, is illustrated with historic images of his buildings, and the second (Glidden’s Baltimore: Works by Edward Hughes Glidden) is largely filled with 2014 photographs from a spring trip to Maryland. Continue reading

Puritan Pedigrees

Robert Charles Anderson_June 2014_1Now that my book on genealogical research methods (Elements of Genealogical Analysis) is out, I have turned my attention to the series of lectures I will be delivering in October and November; these, in turn, will form the basis for a future book entitled Puritan Pedigrees: The Deep Roots of the Great Migration to New England.

In most of the Great Migration volumes, I have been able to examine the motivations of the migrating families only in the context of events at the time of migration. A few years ago, while working on The Winthrop Fleet, I began to get a better feel for the deeper connections and influences which had been developing for decades and for generations leading up to the migration decision. Continue reading

Detective Stories

Sturgis Hartman Smith Fish Jones Bull
Back row, left to right: Mercy Elizabeth (Fish) Smith, Edgar Leslie Smith, Cyrus Cressey Sturgis, Angeline (Hartman) Sturgis. Front row, left to right: Berintha Lydia (Bull) Fish, Una Coy (Smith) Sturgis with Cyrus Cressey Sturgis Jr., Jane (Jones) Hartman. Author’s Collection

A few nights ago, I was watching Hercule Poirot on TV, working to solve a complicated mystery. At one point, he found himself stumped and said, “I am an imbecile. I see only half of the picture.” As an aspiring genealogist (read: amateur detective), I can certainly identify with the great detective in that way. I get that feeling all the time! I feel much more like Miss Lemon, who replies, “I don’t even see that.”

I guess it’s common knowledge that many aspiring (and even accomplished) genealogists see genealogy as a British murder mystery, a puzzle just begging to be solved. I know I do. And I have at least as much trouble solving my genealogical puzzles as Hercule, Miss Marple, and, dare I say it, Inspector Morse. Of course, the big difference is that those fictional detectives solve every case by the end of the episode. We genealogists can struggle for years, trying to solve our mysteries. Fortunately, very few of our cases involve murder. Continue reading

A revolution in one generation

Penny at podium_croppedI began my publishing career in pre-computer days: manuscript was typed on a typewriter, and editing was done on hard copy. I took a freelance job from a publisher who required that I work in ink, and for that job I acquired a special fountain pen that I filled with green ink.

To change or remove an edit, I used ink eradicator, which came in a little brown bottle with a stopper that doubled as an applicator. The ink rule ensured that every edit was very deliberate; still, I probably used up that entire bottle of eradicator. Continue reading

Adding context to my genealogy

Amos 1
Images from the author’s collection

I could easily go up to the seventh floor here at NEHGS and find a lot of my ancestry in published genealogies, but my research interests have gone in a different direction: I have spent close to the last six years researching the branches of my Italian family in Windsor Locks, Connecticut, and writing a genealogy that traces all of the descendants of the earliest generation. Continue reading

Musicians in the family: an afterword

ABA with All Blue 1920
My grandmother in 1920

In thinking about the Ilsley family of singers and musicians to which my great-grandmother Theodora Ilsley Ayer belonged, I could think of no special evidence of the family talent having lasted into the twentieth century. Yet to pose the question is to invite the answer, and in fact I have a letter – preserved in my paternal grandmother’s scrapbook – hinting at musical skills which Mrs. Ayer hoped to foster.

In November 1925, my grandmother (Anne Beekman Ayer) was at school in Virginia. Continue reading

Musicians in the family: Part Three

Arthur Foote
Arthur Foote (1853-1937)

The Nathaniel Ilsley family of Portland, Maine (and later Chelsea, Massachusetts; Buffalo and Troy, New York; and Newark, New Jersey) produced more than a dozen singers, violinists, and conductors – and at least two composers. One of these last was my great-great-grandfather, Francis Grenville Ilsley (1831–1887), and the other was his younger brother, Eliphalet Clark Ilsley (1837–1866). Frank (or Grenville) wrote at least two hymn tunes that are still in general use – Ilsley and Dania – while Clark (or Clarke) ventured South and spent the Civil War years as the choirmaster of St. Paul’s Church in Augusta, Georgia. Continue reading

Like father, like son – like daughter?

Athlone Castle cropped
S.S. Athlone Castle, on which my grandfather was a deck hand in 1936. Courtesy of State Library of Queensland, John Oxley Library/Wikimedia Commons

Like many people in their early to mid-twenties, I am still struggling to figure out who I am. One day not too long ago, I was told that I was acting “just like my father.” Ah yes, the age-old phrase that was said to me when I was a child (and typically when I was misbehaving). This time, however, instead of shrugging off the comparison as I typically would, I decided to dig a bit deeper. If I act just like my father, then maybe I am destined to be like my father… Continue reading