Identity and Family Life in 16th Century France

A contemporary account of the Martin Guerre case. Courtesy of Bibliorare, French Vernacular Books, 2007, No. 14290

The problem of identity theft is one which has increased significantly over the last several decades; for obvious reasons, it was quite rare in centuries past. This fact makes the story of Martin Guerre all the more remarkable.

Martin Guerre was the son of a man named Sanxi Daguerre (the family later shortened their surname to Guerre), born in the French Basque country in 1525. In 1527, Martin and his parents relocated to the village of Artigat in the County of Foix, less than thirty miles from the border of Spain.[1] Martin’s early years were unremarkable, as he lived a peasant’s life and would have surely faded into obscurity as so many others had if not for a well-documented incident which shaped his adult life. Continue reading Identity and Family Life in 16th Century France

“Mr. Loring’s play”

Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Ayer’s house in Prides Crossing, 1906.

My cousin Neil recently shared some family albums with me: the oldest one belonged to his grandfather, Frederick Ayer (Jr.) (1888–1969), who kept it in 1905 and 1906. Over time, the images and the captions have faded, and the book’s middle section is held together with ancient cellophane tape, but Uncle Fred obviously cared about the record he was keeping. One of the most puzzling, and therefore interesting, images fills almost an entire leaf of the album; the identifying captions are squeezed out to the page edge: D. Sohier, D. Beal, F. Ayer Jr., etc. Continue reading “Mr. Loring’s play”

The Jamestowne Chancel Burials

Seal of the King of England, Scotland, Ireland, and France, as President of the Virginia Council. U.S. National Parks Service

The announcement Tuesday of the (probable) identification of the remains of four men buried under the chancel of the first parish church at Jamestowne, Virginia – first discovered in 2010 and unearthed in 2013 – has now made the front page of The Wall Street Journal and appeared in other leading news outlets. While not the first Englishmen to die in the nascent American colony, they were nearly so, probably interred in Virginia soil in 1608 and 1610, more than a decade before the Mayflower arrived on American shores; these men were certainly among the colony’s founders. Continue reading The Jamestowne Chancel Burials

A sojourn in California

Adrian Todd
Adrian Sidney Todd (1918-1959)

When I contemplated the subject of my first post, I decided that I should write about the person who sparked my genealogical interest in the first place: my paternal grandfather, Adrian Sidney Todd. Adrian died young, and I never had the chance to meet him, so I thought I would use genealogy to see what I could find out for myself. He was born 6 February 1918 in Georgia to Adrian Sidney and Susie (Stanley) Todd, and served in the U.S. Marine Corps in both World War II and Korea. Continue reading A sojourn in California

Composition: Part One

The map

Alicia Crane WilliamsMany people enjoy fishing, but not as many enjoy cleaning the catch. That is why we all have piles of research sitting waiting to be compiled into finished accounts. In some cases we may have entered our data into a genealogical database, but as nice as they are for sorting a multitude of facts, there is still no replacement for a well-written genealogical story.

Few of us enjoyed English composition in school (do they still teach it?), and with texting and tweeting the art of complete sentences is dying. I happen to like writing, have a little training, and through years of experience am getting better at it, but I can see the “deer in the headlights” look in the eyes of many researchers when they are faced with the idea of “writing” their genealogy. Continue reading Composition: Part One

400 posts at Vita Brevis

Building_exterior_night 076
This photo of the Society’s Newbury Street exterior at night illustrated the first Vita Brevis post in January 2014.

Friday’s post, by Steven Solomon of the Society’s Development team, marked the four hundredth blog post at Vita Brevis. Since its launch in January 2014, the blog has featured posts by 64 bloggers, almost all of them NEHGS staff members, with a few outside contributors or transcribed interviews making up the remainder. What does the genealogical mosaic about which I wrote in the first post at Vita Brevis look like after eighteen months in the blog’s life? Continue reading 400 posts at Vita Brevis

“A garden of roses”

Nathan Rosenau
Nathan Rosenau (1835-1920)

My genealogical journey started sometime between elementary school and junior high school with a crude, hand drawn chart of “the family” going back three or four generations. While my mother, Ellen Harris Solomon, had some interest in the history of our family, it was her sister, Jean Harris Sterne Steinhart, who, with their parents, Alice Selig Harris and Harold Rosenau Harris, was the keeper of the Harris family flame. The one line we’ve been able to follow back to 1750 is the Rosenau family in Bad Kissingen, Bavaria. Continue reading “A garden of roses”

A slice of life

George Bruce Upton
George Bruce Upton (1804-1874). NEHGS Collection

For as long as I’ve had my present office on the Society’s third floor, I’ve looked through my open door at a portrait of George Bruce Upton (1804–1874), the Society’s vice president between 1866 and 1874. I will confess that my eye did not linger over Mr. Upton’s portrait, as the representation does not appeal to me; on the other hand, immersed as I was this winter in my sabbatical project, once I noticed his nameplate I realized that Mr. Upton and his family appear frequently in the Gray diary:[1] Continue reading A slice of life

A very small world

Burke 1
The Burkes of Oranmore

It’s a very, very small world.

Recently, I received some photos of my mother’s Irish ancestors from a cousin. Most of these photos featured the Burke family of Oranmore, Galway, and I was excited to learn that many of the photos had been labeled and dated. Continue reading A very small world

Not quite right

Two stars in ship’s clothing.

I recently bid on a photograph associated with a 1938 Cecil B. DeMille film called The Buccaneer, and noticed that the seller identified the man in the picture – the actor Fredric March (1897–1975) – but not the woman: a search at The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) suggested that she was the Hungarian actress Franciska Gaal (1904–1973). In the end, I won the auction, and when I went to pay the seller I started thinking about Miss Gaal’s hair – which led me on an internet search that revealed that the actress, the actor, and the film were not quite what they seemed. Continue reading Not quite right