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

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

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

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

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

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

Making Sense of Money in Colonial America

£2 Colonial currency from the Colony of Rhode Island. National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution.
£2 Colonial currency from the Colony of Rhode Island. National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution.

Prior to the Coinage Act of 1792, which established the dollar, the English pound was the primary form of currency in colonial America. The pound—which, in the Middle Ages, was valued the same as one pound of sterling silver—had 20 shillings, and each shilling had 12 pence (pennies).[1] (The modern pound follows the decimal system and, since 1971, has been divided into 100 pence.) Continue reading

“Pomps and vanities”

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

Two of Dr. Francis H. Gray’s uncles married Gardners, so the Grays’ web of family connections included Mr. and Mrs. John L. Gardner Jr. – better known to contemporaries as Mr. and Mrs. Jack Gardner. I was interested to see that Mrs. Gray did not mention Isabella Stewart Gardner (“Mrs. Jack”) in her diary until February 1869, following the grand ball the Grays had given for their debutante daughter Mary Clay Gray (1848–1923) in December 1868.

The Grays were invited to two of Mrs. Jack Gardner’s receptions in February and March 1869, but owing to a friend’s illness they only attended the second one. The next mention of Mrs. Gardner comes in February 1872, and it is notably positive: Continue reading

The Dionne Family: Genealogical beginnings

Francis Dionne
Francis Dionne

Growing up in Waterville, Maine, with a large French-Canadian family, I was always interested in history—particularly the history of my family and hometown. Both my parents grew up in Waterville, their forebears having moved there from Canada and Northern Maine not long before. Having my memeres, my tantes, and many aunts and uncles living close by during my childhood allowed me to hear details of life in Waterville through the generations. Those details continue to give me a sense of roots that I especially appreciate now that I live in a much larger city. Continue reading

Celebrating Presidential Kinship, U.S. Ancestry

George Washington portrait; Rembrandt Peale (1778-1860), NEHGS Rotunda, Boston.
George Washington portrait; Rembrandt Peale (1778-1860), NEHGS Rotunda, Boston.

The past year saw the American Presidency surpass 225 years as an establishment of government and state. Presidents of the United States number among the most recognizable, beloved, and reviled (not mutually exclusive) figures in our nation’s history and that of the world. Since the inauguration of George Washington, forty-three men have been entrusted by the American people to safeguard our independence, defend the Constitution which binds a widely dispersed and diverse nation, and exemplify virtues and qualities of leadership that contribute to this country’s exceptionalism.  Emerging from the seedbeds of the Revolution, genteel Southern patricians and their learned New England peers were joined by New York Dutch, Scotch-Irish settlers, proverbial young men who pioneered the West, and even descendants of relatively recent immigration as our presidential pantheon has expanded in number while also developing genealogically. The ancestries of recent presidents, Jimmy Carter, both Presidents George Bush, and Barack Obama, have embraced several of these regional and ethnic origins, much in keeping with the social development and mobility of the whole American people. Continue reading