Metadata

metadata-2-croppedMuch has happened with the Society’s Civil War digitization project, funded by the Cabot Family Charitable Trust, since Abbey Schultz’s last article on quality assurance. Our vendor completed all scans in June 2016, ending the imaging portion of the project. The focus then shifted to preparing the images to be uploaded into CONTENTdm software so they can be displayed  on our Digital Collections website. Continue reading Metadata

Deck the halls

img_20161201_124035_687For some, the holidays are a time of heightened crafting – making wreaths, designing centerpieces, stringing popcorn garlands, knitting warm to-be-gifted hats and scarves, and building elaborate gingerbread wonderlands. For everyone, the holidays are a time to be with and celebrate family – present and past.

Since 2013, staff at NEHGS have combined spirited crafting and a passion for genealogy by creating special ornaments using (facsimiles of) family photographs. The ornaments adorn the tree at the Society and are taken home just before Christmas. Even among unrelated crafters, we can’t help but share the “who,” “what,” and “when” of our photos with each other. Some staff have even chosen to represent lines of descent within a single ornament (see below) – a family tree in 3D! Continue reading Deck the halls

Accounting for the care of slaves

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From Florida Probate Records, 1784-1990, at FamilySearch.org.

I frequently contribute to a column on The Root online magazine, where I respond with Henry Louis Gates Jr. to genealogical questions from the readers. Often the questions involve trying to trace families back to the slavery period, which is a daunting and difficult task. Not only are records hard to come by, but the work can be an emotional rollercoaster.

It is mixed with the delight of finding an ancestor listed by name in a probate record, quickly followed by the realization that they are there because they were property. It can be hard to face the realities of the past when seeing children listed with monetary values next to their names, but also rewarding to know you have pieced a family together with the record. Continue reading Accounting for the care of slaves

Family associations

newsletter1I have recently been thinking about an interesting collection in the NEHGS library: our collection of family association newsletters and publications. We have more than 700 different family publications ranging in date from the late 1800s to the present. For some titles, we have just one issue; for others, we have more than 50 years’ worth.    

I was first drawn to the collection by some amusingly clever titles, like Blackburn Beginnings, Chilson Chatter, Collier Collator, Cooley Communiqué, Harlow Happenings, Harris Hunters, Jones Journeys, Kernfield Kernals, and Lay of the Land. I smile at the thought of a group of family members coming up with these names. Continue reading Family associations

Chinese burials in Boston

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Memorial Altar at Mount Hope Cemetery. Photo by Aaron Knox, https://www.flickr.com/photos/aaronknox/5732898399/in/photolist-ayZrcd-nHwhLY-9JAAXR-76LQUf/

This year I was sorry to miss a festival my family has participated in annually since my childhood. During the fall, two Chinese festivals commemorate ancestors: the Ghost or Hungry Ghost Festival and the Double Ninth Festival. The Ghost Festival occurs on the fifteenth night of the seventh month in the Chinese lunar calendar (typically held sometime between mid-August and mid-September), and the ghosts of ancestors are said to be visiting their living descendants, who offer meals and material items for their enjoyment. The Double Ninth Festival that my family observes occurs on the ninth day of the ninth month (some time during the month of October), and we honor our ancestors at the cemetery. Continue reading Chinese burials in Boston

‘In this busy world’

[Author’s note: This series, on Mrs. Gray’s reading habits, began here.]

PP231.236 Regina Shober Gray. Not dated.
Regina Shober Gray by [Edward L.] Allen, ca. 1860. Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society, Item PP231.236
Regina Shober Gray[1] turned forty-five at the end of 1863; her children were growing up. At the same time, her younger sister Sue – unmarried and a ruthless flirt – worried Mrs. Gray, while changes wrought by the Civil War gave her some hope for the future:

61 Bowdoin Street, Boston, Sunday, 6 September 1863: Yesterday was Frank [Gray]’s[2] 17th birthday – how time flies. He is back at Harvard looking to a year of hard study. His chum, Abthorpe,[3] has not appeared yet, nor has he written to F., who hears from some that A. will not go on at Harvard another year; meanwhile Frank cannot settle in his new quarters till he does hear from Abthorpe – the poison-cold,[4] which has troubled F.C.G. for many years, 5 or 6, at this season, is far lighter in its attack now than ever before, and we hope it may be wearing out of his system.

Sunday, 13 September 1863: … Frank hears to-day that Abthorp is not coming back to Harvard – so he has lost his chum. We dined at Sallie Gray[5] on Tuesday and had a pleasant day. And on Monday p.m. took tea with Hepsa B[radlee][6] at Medford. Continue reading ‘In this busy world’

Generations of Johns

Alicia Crane WilliamsThe name of “John” Alden was passed down for five consecutive generations.

John1 Alden, of course, was the passenger on Mayflower with his soon-to-be bride, Priscilla Mullins.

John2 Alden, their first son and second child, was born about 1626. He went to the big city, Boston, where he became a very successful ship captain and merchant. His wife, Elizabeth (Phillips) Everill, was the daughter of William Phillips, a large land owner, and widow of Abiel Everill. Continue reading Generations of Johns

Take a guess

mabelle-3In gathering records on people – especially in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries – I often find people listed with middle initials. Sometimes finding the full middle names can be challenging; sometimes it’s impossible! (In some cases, such as Harry S. Truman or J.R. “Johnny” Cash, the initials may not even actually stand for anything.) Continue reading Take a guess

A lesson in history

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American historian, librarian, and former AHA president Justin Winsor (1831-1897). Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

One might be surprised to learn that the profession of “historian” in America is a fairly recent creation. The American Historical Association (AHA), founded in 1884, was established partly in reaction to growing numbers of individuals who were pursuing the serious study of history.[1] America’s earliest historians were focused largely on recording the events and sequence of history: that is, political events, wars, and other nation-building activities. Only recently have America’s historians begun to ask what life was like for ordinary men, women, and minority groups – questions of significant relevance and interest to family historians and genealogists.[2] Continue reading A lesson in history

‘More than books can give’

[Author’s note: This series, on Mrs. Gray’s reading habits, began here.]

PP231.236 Regina Shober Gray. Not dated.
Regina Shober Gray by [Edward L.] Allen, ca. 1860. Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society, Item PP231.236
In this installment from the Gray diary, it is interesting to read Regina Shober Gray’s[1] description of a grand new house in the latest style, one marred – in her view – by a lack of “works of art, …bronzes, marbles or even Parians – not a picture worth glancing at…”[2] She is happier on a visit to Manchester in June 1863: “[I] gaze my fill with ever new delight at this lovely panorama of sea and shore, pasture and woodland, hoar old cliffs and long cruel reefs where the tormented waters churn themselves into white foam and froth, and long swaying streamers of sea-weed are tossed to and fro in ceaseless unrest.”[3]

61 Bowdoin Street, Boston, Sunday, 15 March 1863: A clear cold day – fine sleighing. Sallie G[ray][4] called for us yesterday p.m. in her large sleigh to go to Milton Hill…

Thursday p.m. we went to a party at Mrs. Hunnewell’s,[5] about 200, not a young party, and no dancing – a house warming in their splendid new house. The dress was quite magnificent – splendid laces and jewelry and plenty of room to display them in. Continue reading ‘More than books can give’