Family historians use a variety of records, some of which require some understanding of legal terms. And when it comes to land records, one term that is very often misunderstood is dower. Many look at that word and think of dowery. While both terms have to do with women, marriage, and property, they have different meanings. Continue reading Dowry versus Dower Right
I’m in the middle of doing some research for a lecture that I’ll be giving in April at NEHGS entitled “The Hand that Rocked the Cradle.” It will use an informal statistical sampling of the women who have been included in the Early New England Families Study Project so far to see if we can form any general pictures about these ladies and their families. Preliminary statistics are interesting.
The gross totals: 88 women who had 116 husbands, 608 children (an average of about 7 each) and 174 step-children. I think that is what they call “populating a wilderness!”
On average these women were born about 1620, came to New England about 1636 (about age 16), were married for the first time about 1640 (age 20), and lived to about 1682 (age 62). Those who had multiple marriages averaged age 41 for the second marriage (22 women), 46 for the third (4 women), and 42 for the fourth (1 woman).
The youngest at first marriage was 15, oldest at first marriage, 32. The woman who lived to the greatest age was 97, and the one who died the youngest was 21. Continue reading Many hands, many cradles
Do you have an ancestor from New Hampshire who was working at sea at the young age of 10 or 12? Have you seen a U.S. Federal Census record that states that your ancestor was a “mariner” at age 13? Did you think it was a mistake or an oversight? In fact, many boys as young as 10 were working on ships in New Hampshire in the late 1700s and early 1800s. Continue reading Young New Hampshire Mariners
The role of women in America in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was not confined simply to matters within their households, as some have popularly believed. Historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich has come up with the term “deputy husbands” to describe women’s potential role in the colonial household. In some cases, women “shouldered male duties,” Ulrich writes. “These might be of the most menial sort—but they could also expand to include some responsibility for the external affairs of the family.”1 Continue reading “Deputy Husbands”
Now this may not seem like a genealogical topic, but making plurals does come up in genealogy, because it comes up in all writing. And sometimes in family histories we need to make plurals of proper names. Here are the basic rules: Continue reading Adams, Adamses, Adams’s
In the years after the American Civil War, an influx of immigrants from Scandinavia settled in the United States. Pushed from their homelands by famine, overpopulation, and lack of economic opportunities, these Swedes, Norwegians, Finns, and Danes poured into the country. In particular, they were drawn to the American Midwest, where large tracts of fertile farmland were abundant. Here they established their own communities, where they spoke their mother language, established their own churches, and even published their own newspapers. Today many Americans can claim Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, and Danish ancestry. And if you are one of these Americans, you may be apprehensive about researching these ancestors because of the language barrier. Don’t be; with the right base of knowledge and a little practice, you’ll be well on your way to uncovering your Scandinavian roots. Continue reading My family is Scandinavian . . . now what?!
One day while visiting my parents, I looked through some documents that belonged to my maternal grandmother, Gertrude Rose (Breen) Conlon. She lived with my family for two years until her death in 1992, and my mother still has some of her papers. While searching for a copy of my grandmother’s marriage record, I came across what appeared to be a bank book. Upon closer examination, I noticed that it was a payment book for my grandmother’s account with the Massachusetts Catholic Order of Foresters (MCOF) . I recognized the name of this organization from research I previously conducted on the Irish lines of my family. My great-great-grandfather, James Conlon, was a member of the MCOF until his death in 1934. Continue reading An Unexpected Discovery in Family Documents
After a week of researching in Washington, D.C., with the NEHGS tour, one of the many things I have learned is that genealogy is more of a sport than a hobby. It takes physical and mental strength and endurance to pursue the ultimate prize of accurately identifying an ancestor. Continue reading The Sport of Genealogy
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
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. 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”