There is a tendency, I think, to imagine that our ancestors moved around far less than we do, that they were parked in one spot for years at a time – perhaps they were born, married, and died in the same place. If, in fact, they emigrated to another country, this was a one-time thing, for by doing so they must have exhausted their wanderlust.
The experience of my own ancestors refutes this truism, although I certainly do have forebears who stayed in one place for generations at a time. Continue reading Far afield→
[Editor’s Note: Between June and August of this year, Alicia wrote two series on her research and writing methodologies. In the interest of bringing them together, and sharing them with a fresh audience, they are offered again, with some of the author’s commentary. The first of these two posts appeared here:]
Many 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. Continue reading Now, it’s time to write→
Every family history researcher hopes diligence and persistence will bring forth enough details of an ancestor’s life to fill out a void on the family tree. There is always hope that serendipity will produce unexpected history gold in letters, diaries, or journals. Charles Merrill Lee (1860–1887) is one of those relatives who stand in the background of family research until the odd paper comes to hand or an old memory nags at the brain.
My grandmother always called him “Uncle Charlie.” Born in Maine, Charlie was four years younger than her father Fred Lee. Uncle Charlie was seldom mentioned, in my presence anyway, and usually in regretful tones. My questions were unanswered, and a search of the usual public records yielded little information. Continue reading The horse he rode in on→
After the turn of the nineteenth century, the number of medical schools around the world increased significantly. While the increase in these institutions led to monumental developments in the medical field, it also had previously unforeseen consequences. One such consequence was a shortage of bodies for dissection and examination. Continue reading Unintended consequences→
[Editor’s Note: Between June and August of this year, Alicia wrote two series on her research and writing methodologies. In the interest of bringing them together, and sharing them with a fresh audience, they are offered again, with some of the author’s commentary.]
When writing your family history, it’s important to decide what to omit. This almost sounds like perverse advice, doesn’t it? And yet, when I read a recent New Yorker article on that topic by John McPhee, I realized that omission is an essential part of the process of all writing: whether it’s a letter, a memo, an essay . . . or a family history.
I would venture to say that many of us got our start in genealogical research with the kind of handwritten notes on cemeteries I found in my grandfather’s box of family papers. My great-aunt Margaret Steward (1888–1975) was the family historian, and doubtless it was at my grandfather’s request that she wrote out this long-hand list of places where family members were buried.
Her list is invaluable, and yet it is also frustrating. As a beginner when I first saw this list, such a list of names daunted (and intrigued) me: who were these exotic Beeckmans and Lorillards and Stuyvesants? What were the connections between them? – obvious to Aunt Margaret, and to her brother, since the people listed were the Stewards’ parents and grandparents, uncles and aunts, with a sprinkling of cousins; yet, absent a key, a family mystery to future generations. Continue reading For want of a key→
It is said time and time again that our immigrant ancestors came to America for a better life. What I often find in my research is that once they made the journey, they were met with hardship and heartache.
In 1845, my great-great-great-grandfather Terence Duross and his brother Charles emigrated from Trillick (Kilskeery parish) in County Tyrone, Ireland. They settled in Massachusetts where they were naturalized, married, and had children. Then in 1862, at age 36, Terence was struck by lightning and killed, leaving behind his wife and three small children. In 1876, Charles was killed in a railroad car accident at age 47, leaving his wife and six children ranging in age from 3 to 21. It was the not future they had envisioned, certainly. But given that they left Ireland at the time of the Great Famine, what choice did they really have? Continue reading Finding a better life→