A tour of Boston, circa 1891

Washington Street, Boston, circa 1891.
Washington Street, Boston, circa 1891.

As a librarian at NEHGS, I love stumbling across items in our research library collection that bring the past to life in an unexpected way. I recently had one such happy “stumbling” experience when we discovered a work called Art Work of Boston in our stacks. Part of a larger series of “view books” of American cities published by the W. H. Parish Publishing Company, Art Work of Boston was first published in 1891, in twelve parts. Each volume contains a series of high-quality photographs of buildings, streets, parks, and other public landmarks in the greater Boston area, accompanied by a brief historical text — all of which you can now view through our Digital Library and Archive. Continue reading A tour of Boston, circa 1891

“Busy Little Brains”

Hedwiga Gray diary1
Hedwiga Regina Shober Gray diary, entries for 5-7 February 1864. R. Stanton Avery Special Collections

One of the most attractive characters in the Gray diary is Mrs. Gray’s youngest son, Morris Gray (1856–1931), later a Boston lawyer and president of the Museum of Fine Arts.[1] His mixture of childish wit and occasional obstreperousness fascinates his mother:

Boston, Wednesday, 1 February 1860: I must begin to teach Morris his letters ─ he is nearly 4 years old ─ and a queer little mortal too. Continue reading “Busy Little Brains”

Researching Mexican records for my grandfather

My family in the 1930 Mexico census
My family in the 1930 Mexico census. Courtesy of FamilySearch.org.

To distract myself from the horrible winter weather that has been thrown at Boston recently, I spent some time trying to research the family of my paternal grandfather, Richard Archibald Brown,[i] in sunny Mexico. This line has been a brick wall. And like many genealogists, I can’t help but try again and again, hoping that this will be the time I finally break through. Continue reading Researching Mexican records for my grandfather

Widow Lydia Scottow’s wardrobe

Page from Joshua Scottow's will
Page from Joshua Scottow’s will

Although I am descended from some good seamstresses, the talent did not descend to either my mother or me. My grandmother’s home was filled with remnants of cloth, lace, trim, etc., passed down to her. I still have some of this material in my “stash” of stuff “to do something with,” and as a child I loved to go through the bits and pieces.

I was thus curious when I found some interesting accounts listing the cloth and trimmings supplied for Lydia, the widow of Joshua Scottow/Scotto, merchant, of Boston. Continue reading Widow Lydia Scottow’s wardrobe

What the “Dad file” taught me about recent history

George Rohrbach at age 18, with his niece Norma Johnson.
George Rohrbach at age 18, with his niece Norma Johnson.

Recently I sifted through a box that turned out to be a treasure box because it yielded some great information about a recent ancestor. The ancestor was my father, George Rohrbach (1909-1999), and I was the one who had made the box.

Let me explain. When my stepmother died in 2010, I helped clean out all her and my late father’s belongings. I spent hours going through drawers and boxes and bins, putting many things in the trash or recycling — Mom seemed to love nothing more than newspaper clippings — and also putting some things, not closely reviewed, in a carton to send to myself. Continue reading What the “Dad file” taught me about recent history

The “Orange Wars” of Chinese New Year

Oranges and money envelopes given for luck during the Lunar New Year.
Oranges and money envelopes given for luck during the Lunar New Year.

With all the snow flying in Massachusetts these past few weeks, I nearly forgot that now is the time of the “orange wars.” At the beginning of every year, I must also mind the lunar calendar as well as the Western or Gregorian one, as Chinese, Koreans, Vietnamese, and other cultures continue to follow the cycles of moon phases to track the seasons and their related cultural and religious activities. February 19 was Lunar New Year’s Day for 2015, which—according to the Chinese zodiac cycle—is the Year of the Ram or Sheep. A nicely done tale of how the Zodiac animals came to be chosen can be found here. Continue reading The “Orange Wars” of Chinese New Year

Researching Your African American Family

1850 United States Slave Schedule, Familysearch.org
1850 United States Slave Schedule,
Familysearch.org

Black History Month is a great time to get inspired to research your family’s unique contributions to American History. African American genealogical research has distinctive challenges but can also produce rewarding results. Getting started is often the most difficult step. While it is usually easy to trace an African American family in the years following the Civil War, it can prove difficult to trace a family before the war. Here some suggestions. Continue reading Researching Your African American Family

RootsTech Wrap Up

Attendees at RootsTech 2015. Photo by Ryan Woods.
Attendees at RootsTech 2015. Photo by Ryan Woods.

When the RootsTech/FGS conference opened Thursday morning at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City, February 12, close to 22,000 attendees were there to learn, mingle, and teach other passionate genealogists from around the country and around the world (35 countries in total). It was the largest group of people interested in finding dead people that many of us had ever seen in one location. It was great to see such high energy and excitement from so many, including an extra 5,000 children, ages 8 and up, who attended Family Discovery Day the last day of the conference. The three days of the conference were jam-packed. Continue reading RootsTech Wrap Up

A Historic Collaboration with FamilySearch

From the Ohio Tax Records database* supplied to NEHGS by FamilySearch.org
From the Ohio Tax Records database* supplied to NEHGS by FamilySearch.org

Last week a group of NEHGS staff members joined 22,000 attendees at the 2015 RootsTech Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, for four days of learning, research, and fun. At the keynote session of the conference, NEHGS and FamilySearch made a historic announcement: a multi-year collaboration between the two nonprofit organizations to share data, digitize new records, and work to build an online family tree experience for NEHGS constituents. Continue reading A Historic Collaboration with FamilySearch