The Alden Homestead

Alden House with Landmark
The Alden Homestead

My regular trip from Plymouth up to Duxbury this week was a pleasant, sunny autumnal drive. I wasn’t exactly tracing my ancestors’ footsteps, since I went up Route 3. (If they had gone overland, their trail would be closer to what is now Route 3A, and more likely than not, they would have gone by boat.) The trip is always a “homecoming” for me, even though my own ancestors have not lived on the homestead since John and Priscilla Alden’s daughter, Ruth, married John Bass and moved to Braintree in 1657. Continue reading

“Saloon Man Routs Amateur Gunmen”

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle 4 August 1920
Click on images to expand them.

Some family stories are so fascinating and memorable that they are passed down through multiple generations, becoming a well-known piece of lore; others, while equally interesting, get lost in the shuffle. The latter truism might explain the story of Christopher Taylor.

My role in this story began when my girlfriend asked me to help her work on her genealogy. As is often the case, the first several generations proved easy to determine through personal knowledge and well-kept documentation. However, upon reaching her great-great-grandfather, a man by the name of Christopher Taylor, some creativity was required.

Knowing that his children were born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, while he himself was born in Ireland, we were able to locate census records which provided us with some key information. Continue reading

Grants for New England historians

Hancock broadside
Courtesy of R. Stanton Avery Special Collections, NEHGS

I will be out of the office today, attending a planning meeting for the New England Regional Fellowship Consortium (NERFC) at the John Hay Library in Providence. The New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) is a member of the consortium, a group made up of New England state and local historical societies, university and college libraries (Harvard, Smith, Trinity, and Brown), and museums (Historic Deerfield and Mystic Seaport). What links the membership together, for the purpose of providing $5,000 research fellowships, is a shared interest in making their large collections available for use by historical researchers. Continue reading

Courtesy titles: a primer

Westminster Hall coronation of George IV 1821
The coronation of King George IV in Westminster Hall, 1821.

Given that the British peerage system developed over time, its labyrinthine rules and unfamiliar nomenclature are not all that surprising. As feudal peerages – a somewhat amorphous class bound by land tenure and military service – gave way to peerages granted by the monarch, the rules governing titles and their inheritance evolved into what we have today.

Several readers of my previous post on the subject were perplexed by courtesy titles. The peerage system in the United Kingdom affords peerage holders and their immediate relatives a variety of titles signifying rank, some hereditary and bound to one holder at a time, others “by courtesy” and held by some or all members of a particular generation. Continue reading

Two hundred posts on Vita Brevis

Martha Anne Kuhn 4
An illustration used with Andrew Krea’s transcription of Martha Anne Kuhn’s diary, June-July 2014. R. Stanton Avery Special Collections

This post marks the two-hundredth entry on Vita Brevis since its début on January 10. After ten months and more than 250,000 page views, and with contributions from 52 bloggers (and counting), the blog has established itself as a place to stop in and see how other genealogists work. Not every post is germane to every reader’s interests, but in the main the spirit of inquiry animates each entry, offering guidance about what approaches and resources help us in our research. Continue reading

Hidden treasures in Immigrant Aid Society records

Click on images to enlarge them. First two images courtesy of NARA; third image courtesy of AJHS-NEA.

While visiting the Massachusetts Historical Society in Boston recently, I took the opportunity to look at their collection titled Charitable Irish Society Records. The Charitable Irish Society was founded in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1737, with the goal of assisting Irish immigrants in need of financial assistance or employment. It is the oldest Irish society in the United States, and is still active today. A number of the projects I work on at NEHGS involve Irish research, so I wanted to take a closer look at these records to learn more about the contents of this collection. Continue reading

How I became a genealogist: Part Three

Alicia Crane WilliamsThere was no light-bulb moment when I discovered I wanted to be a genealogist, but by the time I came back from Kentucky, I’d done enough work on my family’s genealogy to decide history wasn’t so dull after all. It happened that NEHGS was hiring an assistant editor for the Register. I applied, was offered the job, but had to turn it down because of the salary. Sorry, but I also needed to pay rent.

As Fate would have it, I was employed by Honeywell Information Systems where I was introduced to the first word processing computer – the IBM Mag Card Typewriter – and discovered that computerized gadgets were fun to operate. Continue reading

Taking the long view

Stack of papersAs a researcher, I most enjoy looking through collections of personal papers. For me, seeing what items still exist is just as interesting as finding the data they contain. I have gone through family papers that I was told were “junk” and found information that I would have never found elsewhere, and which only exists because someone thought it was important enough to keep. It was when pondering my family papers and the records I create in my own research that I began to think about future genealogists. Continue reading

Title troubles

Redesdale family
Lord and Lady Redesdale and their children. The Hon. Deborah Freeman-Mitford is at lower right.

The recent death of the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire got me to thinking about the genealogical treatment of titles. Titles can be tricky, and many American genealogists – confronted with medieval British or European titles in their ancestry – prefer to ignore them or, conversely, string them all together and hope that the result is acceptable.

The same is true of the American press. At present, The New York Times behaves as though someone with a title doesn’t use it. In the Duchess’s obituary, the headline called her Deborah Cavendish – true enough, but Cavendish is hardly the name (or the rank) by which she was best known. Continue reading

At last: a link to the Mayflower!

Henry Hornblower Visitor CenterThroughout my childhood and teenage years I was under the impression that my ancestors had traveled to Plymouth on the Mayflower. Being young and naive, I had no reason to question my parents’ long-held beliefs. Given that my grandfather, Henry Hornblower II (1917–1985), founded Plimoth Plantation in 1947, no one ever questioned my Mayflower lineage. And with a last name like Hornblower, who would? Continue reading