The figure in the photograph

Jan Doerr imageRecently, while going through my family’s photos and albums, I laid out the various tintypes, cabinet cards, ambrotypes, albumen prints, and daguerreotypes on a long family tree chart drawn on paper and covering my dining table. I placed a tintype or daguerreotype next to each name. One cabinet card – of a pretty woman posing for her portrait, the hoop a faint outline supporting her skirt – crept into my hand, although I had no place to put it.

I have no idea who she is. Continue reading The figure in the photograph

A Beekman family cookbook

Recipes for Indian pudding, suet pudding, and carrot pudding from the Beekman cookbook.

A surprising find in my box of Steward family papers is a combination cookbook–book of home remedies. It is a surprise not as a document – the R. Stanton Avery Special Collections at NEHGS holds many such hybrids – but as a lone example of something from my paternal grandmother’s family in a collection of Steward, White, and Beeckman papers.

To be specific, the cookbook section’s front end paper reads The Misses Beekman. My grandmother was named for her maternal great-great-grandmother, Anne Beekman (1784–1842), who married John Finlay of Montreal in 1809, and the Misses Beekman were Mrs. Finlay’s unmarried sisters, Aletta Beekman (1787–1851) and Cornelia Beekman (1790–1826).[1] Continue reading A Beekman family cookbook

How to keep a surname going?

The poet James Russell Lowell

Reading Scott Steward’s post about surnames being changed to keep another family name going reminded me of two examples we encountered when we wrote The Descendants of Judge John Lowell of Newburyport, Massachusetts together.

The first example is relatively straightforward. This involved the descendants of the poet James Russell Lowell (1819–1891). James had three daughters and one son, but only his daughter Mabel survived childhood. She married Edward Burnett and had three sons – James Russell Lowell Burnett (b. 1873), Joseph Burnett (b. 1874), and Francis Lowell Burnett (b. 1878). In 1890, Mabel’s eldest son James had his name changed to James Burnett Lowell to continue his maternal grandfather’s surname. Continue reading How to keep a surname going?

Manhattan bodies in transit

Courtesy of Cornell University Library and Wikimedia Commons.

In one of my recent cases, I was searching for a woman who had been living in New York in the 1860s, and then removed to Charleston, South Carolina, with her husband and children. After several years in Charleston, she died in 1872. Her death certificate could not be found in Charleston. However, the client provided a document from the record collection “New York, Department of Health, Manhattan Bodies in Transit, Vols. 5-10 (1870-1886),” located at the New York City Municipal Archives and available on microfilm from the Family History Library.[i]

Continue reading Manhattan bodies in transit

“Her whole heart’s devotion”

Another one of the treasures in my grandfather’s box of family papers is the surprisingly well-preserved booklet produced following my great-great-grandmother’s funeral, at Grace Church in New York, on 1 August 1867. The booklet’s sturdy midnight blue cover stock offers no hint of the contents, an admiring Address at the Funeral of Mrs. John Steward given by the Rev. Dr. Stephen H. Tyng, the long-time rector of St. George’s Church on Stuyvesant Square.[1] Continue reading “Her whole heart’s devotion”

Stone-ender houses of Rhode Island

Eleazer Arnold
The Eleazer Arnold house in Lincoln. From Norman Morrison Isham’s Early Rhode Island Houses (1895).

The earliest houses built in Rhode Island, beginning with the first settlement by Reverend William Blackstone in the area now known as Cumberland, were different from those which were being built elsewhere in New England during the seventeenth century. One style of building in particular stands out for its presence in the formative years of the Rhode Island colony. These houses were known as stone-enders, as they were built around large chimneys made of limestone which formed an entire wall of the house. Early settlers found an abundance of limestone throughout the colony, leading to its use in house construction.[1] Continue reading Stone-ender houses of Rhode Island

Composition: Part Four

Final assessment

Alicia Crane WilliamsAs I tie up loose ends on the Early New England Families Study Project sketch for Richard Newton, it is time to assess the work.

Newton’s sketch is fairly short, four pages at the moment: his birth and ancestry are unknown, he did not participate in town or colony governments, was not in trouble with the courts, and left no interesting biographical highlights. A lot of information was already in print about the Newton family, including a full transcription of Richard’s will in the Newton GenealogyContinue reading Composition: Part Four

The name’s the same

Asa Thurston Child
My great-great-great-grandfather Asa Thurston Child (1820-1860), through whom 7/10 of these Child lines, and 8/12 of these Bowen lines, descend.

As I have mentioned in a previous post, my grandfather was raised in the northeastern Connecticut town of Woodstock, a town away from where I grew up. His ancestry can pretty much be summed up as “New England Yankee,” largely descending from families that arrived in Massachusetts Bay in the 1630s and 1640s. Settled by English people in 1686, Woodstock was originally called “New Roxbury,” after the town in Massachusetts from which most of the original English settlers migrated, and was part of Massachusetts until annexed by Connecticut in 1749. With a limited number of families to marry, this quarter of my ancestry features a large number of cousin marriages. I have ten unique descents from my patrilineal immigrant ancestors, Benjamin and Mary (Bowen) Child of Roxbury, and twelve from Mary’s parents, Griffith and Margaret (Fleming) Bowen, also of Roxbury and Boston. Continue reading The name’s the same

Remember me as I was

Jean 1
Joan Whitty, St. Mary of the Annunciation School graduation photo, circa 1951.

When my mother was diagnosed with ALS in 2009, our family had the first of many discussions about her end-of-life plans. Never one to shy away from difficult topics, Mom expressed her wishes with characteristic cheerful directness. She wanted everything done with the least fuss and greatest economy.

The one decision that gave her pause was the photo to accompany her obituary. She didn’t want to be remembered as she looked in the late stages of ALS, but she also felt it would be “phony” to run a photo of herself in young adulthood, before marriage and motherhood. And from this question came a series of conversations between myself and my mother that I carry with me as my own appearance changes along with my sense of who I am. Continue reading Remember me as I was

A serious young couple

Margaret Atherton (Foster) Beeckman

Among the prizes in my grandfather’s box of family papers is a small double daguerreotype case containing images of my great-great-grandparents, Gilbert Livingston Beeckman (1824–1874) and Margaret Atherton Foster (1832–1904). While I have seen several images of Mrs. Beeckman, including a Fagnani pastel of her as a young bride, I have no other representation of G. L. (or G. Livingston) Beeckman, for whom my grandfather Gilbert Livingston Steward was named. Continue reading A serious young couple