Age old problems and comfort zones

Alicia Crane WilliamsIn my last post, I left Abigail (Smith) Carey in a Black Hole with conflicting information about her age. Age discrepancies are a common cause of Red Flags and avoiding them requires an understanding of such things as the average age at marriage for men and women in the time period with which you are dealing, the childbearing ages of women, legal ages, etc. I’m not aware of a single source that provides a good overall summary of these questions – let me know if you are. Continue reading

The Great Migration: Top-down, bottom-up

The Winthrop FleetThe activities of the Massachusetts Bay Company in 1629-30 were uniformly organized from the top down. The Company either purchased or hired the vessels to carry the passengers and provisions. The passengers themselves, and especially the critically important professionals such as ministers and soldiers, were recruited by the Company leaders. Continue reading

“The place where you are”: letters to New England, 1631-36

Edward Howes rabbitAs I read through the third volume of the Winthrop Papers, one of the Winthrop correspondents I have most enjoyed is Edward Howes, described succinctly in a footnote as a “student of law, alchemist and mystic, clerk to [John1 Winthrop’s brother-in-law] Emmanuel Downing, [and] friend of the younger John Winthrop.” (Volume 2, p. 226) I find myself looking forward to Howes’ letters’ salutations, and to the mixture of folk wisdom, political intrigue, and religious fervor I find within their pages. At times Howes and John2 Winthrop sound like the young men they were, not far removed from university punning; in other letters, Howes can be quite formal and business-like as he fulfills commissions for the Winthrops and the Downings. Continue reading

Using heraldry for genealogical research

William Bainbridge for blog
Commodore William Bainbridge (1774-1833)

I have had two good personal experiences with heraldry — and no bad ones.

When I was developing the West Indian ancestry of my ancestress, Susanna (Heyliger) Bainbridge, I found that her grandson (my great-grandfather) had drawn up an elaborate coat of arms for her husband, Commodore William Bainbridge, based on the arms of an unrelated Bainbridge family, quartering the arms of an unrelated Taylor family. (The Commodore’s mother was Mary Taylor. For an explanation of quartering arms, see this Wikipedia article.) Included in this heraldic disaster as a single quartering were the supposed arms of the Heyliger family. And, as it turned out, they were valid arms — though not for the Heyliger family. Continue reading

Missing nails and black holes

Alicia Crane WilliamsMy “Devil’s advocate” pops up and waves red flags at me whenever something is not quite right based on “our” experience.  Our most often used flag is for “black holes” – too much missing information. The connection may be right, but it certainly hasn’t yet been proved, and skipping over these holes is like skipping two out of every three nails when you build your deck – it might hold for a while, but it isn’t safe. Continue reading

“Between the bark and the tree”: ‘The Winthrop Woman,’ 1629

A view of St. Bartholomew's Church, Groton, Suffolk
A view of St. Bartholomew’s Church, Groton, Suffolk.

As I delve further into the Winthrop Papers, I am finding interesting asides about the relationships within the Winthrop family. Like his father, Governor John1 Winthrop (1588–1649) remained close to his “brothers” and “sisters,” such as Thomas Fones (d. 1629), the widower of Winthrop’s sister Anne, and Thomas’ second wife, Priscilla (Burgess) (Sherman) (Fones) Paynter, the future governor’s “verye louinge sister Mrs.  Fones.” Continue reading

Navigating Connecticut probate and court records

Genealogist's HandbookMore than the other New England states, Connecticut has kept its records in a variety of jurisdictions. Probate records can be particularly difficult to navigate. For Connecticut Colony, after 1639, estates were in the jurisdiction of the Particular Court (sometimes called the “Quarterly Court”). The Particular Courts were abolished with the new colony charter in 1662 and replaced by the Court of Assistants. Continue reading

Organizing a family reunion: Part One

Pauline Boucher Glidden
Pauline Boucher Glidden in Venice, 1923. Author’s collection. (Click on the images to expand them.)

My mother used to say, wistfully, “You’re always writing about your father’s family; I wish you would write about mine.” Vita Brevis readers will remember the posts on my Great-Grandfather Glidden and the fruitful search for his photograph; with this post, I trust I will begin paying down the arrears on my mother’s mother’s mother’s family, the Bouchers.

My great-grandmother Pauline Boucher (1875–1964) was the sixteenth of the twenty-three children born in Baltimore to her father, William Esprit Boucher, Jr. (1822–1899), and the seventh of the fourteen born to her mother, Mary Frances (Giles) Boucher (1843–1923). While the size of the family is impressive, I should note that about half the children died young, and only one child of Boucher’s first marriage (to Mary Agnes O’Brien) lived to grow up and marry. This was Francis Xavier Boucher (1854–1927), who was thirty-three years older than the last-born child, Constance Marie (Boucher) Burch (1887–1977). Nine of the Boucher children married, but only five – Frank Boucher, Josephine Stone, Gertrude Donovan, Pauline Glidden, and Constance Burch – have living descendants. Continue reading