Family history in the kitchen

Laura Brown 1 for VBToday, as most of us here in the United States enter our kitchens to cook, prepare, or bake our contributions for Thanksgiving dinner, many of us will reach into our bookshelves and pull out the recipe for those tried-and-true dishes that our families request (or sometimes expect) us to bring to dinner. If your kitchen is anything like mine, these recipes are usually pretty easy to find – they’re the ones on the index cards that have batter and sauce splattered all over them, and in the cookbook with the broken binding that seems to automatically open to the same wrinkled page with ripped edges. Continue reading

Thanksgiving, a history we all share

Pilgrim Migration softcoverThanksgiving is a holiday that prompts many of us to imagine, based on the history we’ve learned from childhood, what it was really like at the first Thanksgiving in 1621. It’s a story all Americans share, regardless of whether our ancestors were already living here in 1620, were among those who arrived on the Mayflower, or were counted as part of the multitude that followed in the coming decades and centuries, for Plymouth Colony set the stage for the America in which we now live. Continue reading

The Mayflower Compact

Signing the Mayflower compact croppedWhen one is associated with the Mayflower Society and other Pilgrim groups, it is almost inevitable that eventually one will be called upon to read the Mayflower Compact in public, and it was my duty to do so at the annual meeting of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts this year. The Mayflower Compact was written 394 years ago by a group of “forefathers” who found themselves sitting in a cold, wet ship in November in Cape Cod Bay. (They had thought they were going to land somewhere near the Hudson River, in what they called “Northern Virginia.”) Continue reading

A lost relative in San Francisco

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San Francisco burning, 1906. (Click on the images to enlarge them)

A few days ago at Vita Brevis, we heard from Andrew Krea on genealogical research running up against natural disasters. The consequent uptick in valuable family information appearing in periodicals and public records, as relatives and associates seek contact with those affected or provide refuge to survivors, provides an unintended boon in documenting extended family groups and far-flung kin. Such events may also supply an explanation to a point of family lore. A natural disaster and a bit of lore in my own family led me to encounter a genealogical project that is worthy of greater attention. Continue reading

The gift of family history

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Poppa and Brenda Lambert

When I was a child, I became very interested in family history. At the unusual age of seven, the stories of my forebears were more fascinating than the cartoons on television. I could listen for hours to my maternal grandmother as she told stories of her past.

Fifteen years ago this week I said my last goodbyes to my father, George Richard Lambert (1925–1999). My father grew up in East Boston, Massachusetts, at the height of the Great Depression, and he fought in World War II. When my dad died, my elder daughter Brenda was only four years of age. Now a college freshman, she still fondly remembers the stories I told her about the Lambert grandparents she hardly knew. Continue reading

Barber’s History and Antiquities

Barber coverThese days, it is easy to find information about any location in the world by typing in the place name on one’s personal computer from the comfort of home. The digital search results can even include high-resolution images of the desired site and its immediate vicinity. However, delving into the past of a place is not as easy, and for this activity the printed book can convey not only information but context. The History and Antiquities of Every Town in Massachusetts is a historical travelogue of Massachusetts for the modern researcher. Its author, engraver and historian John Warner Barber, gives his historical perspective of the towns and cities of Massachusetts from their respective beginnings up until the time of the volume’s publication in 1839. Continue reading

A genealogical photo calendar

Juho calendarThis week I gave a webinar on different ways of sharing family history findings with your family. (It was originally broadcast 18 November 2014.) While preparing for it, I became fascinated by the idea of creating a genealogical photo calendar.

I was inspired by a genealogical wall calendar created by an NEHGS member. Each month’s photo is of an ancestor. The blocks for specific days are annotated with genealogical data: specifically, birth and marriage dates of ancestors as well as of living relatives. Continue reading

The meaning of ‘Mrs.’

Winter Goodhue marriage transcriptA few months ago, I was searching for a marriage record in our microfilmed collection of New Hampshire Vital Records to 1900. I was able to find the marriage record between Jonathan W. Winter and Almira Goodhue, dated 5 August 1832 at Campton, Grafton County, New Hampshire. However, the marriage record had some information that I was not expecting: that Almira’s marriage to Jonathan Winter was her second.

The fact that Almira had been married previously contradicted other information that I had already found. In a land record filed between J.W. Winter, Elmyra B. Winter, and Daniel Goodhue [Jr.] dated 27 March 1848, J.W. Winter and Almira forfeited their share in the estate of a Daniel Goodhue, described as “our late father” in the deed. This indicates that Daniel Goodhue [Sr.] was Almira’s father, and that Goodhue would be her maiden name, not a married one. Continue reading

“All far from Goshen”: Three family photos

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From left: Catharine White Steward (1818-1867), John Steward (1814-1901), John Steward (Jr.) (1847-1923), Harriet Steward Stuyvesant (1842-1872), and Campbell Steward (1852-1936).

I am fortunate in that my parents and grandparents took photographs and preserved the photos of the generations before them. My paternal great-aunt Margaret Steward (1888–1975) was the genealogist of the Steward and Beeckman families, and she was careful to identify the sitters in family photos whenever she could. Through her efforts, I have three photographs of the Steward Homestead in Goshen, New York, from the 1850s. These pictures show different collections of Stewards, Whites, Le Roys, and Mariés, the parents, siblings, and other kin of my great-great-grandparents, John Steward and Catharine Elizabeth White. Continue reading

Banks’ Planters of the Commonwealth

Planters-of-the-CommonwealthIn genealogical research, discovering the names of ships on which immigrant ancestors came to the New World is interesting  not only as a discrete fact, but because it can often be a clue for further research. As there was a tendency for members of communities to travel together, knowing the names of ships and the places of origin of the ships’ passengers is helpful in understanding the composition of communities and revealing where to search for related, elusive ancestors.

Unlike more modern listings of passengers for the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, compiled by the shipping companies in official ship manifests for departures and arrivals, for the seventeenth century no such official ship passenger lists were created. Continue reading