A few months ago, we agreed that apostrophes do not belong in plurals: To make a plural, generally you add an s or es. No apostrophe. The same rule applies when you are referring to a decade, say, the 1920s. It is absolutely fine to put a letter after a number without an apostrophe between.
If, however, you decide to drop the 19 from 1920s, you would insert an apostrophe to show that something is missing: the ’20s. (After all, that is one of the apostrophe’s jobs: to show that something has been removed.)
You could also spell out the abbreviated form as “the twenties,” keeping it lower case unless you are talking about the Roaring Twenties, a distinct historic era. The Chicago Manual of Style, NEHGS’s style guide of choice, says, “Decades are either spelled out (as long as the century is clear) and lowercased or expressed in numerals.” I’ll repeat: As long as the century is clear. In genealogical writing, we’re often discussing such long spans of time, and precision is so essential, that we will probably always want to use the form 1920s, to distinguish the twenties decade from the 1820s or the 1720s or the 1620s—and soon from the 2020s.
Sheilagh Doerfler’s recent post about finding Revolutionary War ancestors reminded me of the story I tell people about how much I love Revolutionary War pension records. They often contain significant genealogical information—but the first time I ever consulted these records, they yielded much more material than I ever would have expected.
In the early 1990s, I was doing the paperwork do get my father into the National Huguenot Society by right of his descent from our ancestor Abraham Tourtellotte (ca. 1655–ca. 1704) of Newport, Rhode Island. (I could not join then because I was not yet 18 years old.) The American generations went from Rhode Island—specifically, from Newport to Providence and Glocester—into Thompson, Connecticut, in the northeastern corner of that state. They generally stayed within a few towns of Thompson afterward. As I began to obtain every birth, marriage, and death record, I struggled to find the birth of my great-great-great-great-grandmother Lucy Tourtellotte. Continue reading Why I Love Revolutionary War Pension Records→
Yesterday I wrote about substitute records that can be used to locate elusive modern vital records. These alternative records can be especially beneficial when an index to the civil vital records is unavailable. Using these alternatives, you can then contact the appropriate authority to provide a copy of the original vital record.
However, what do you do when a vital record simply does not exist? It’s a common problem, especially when documenting older generations, as each state legislated its own vital record compliance. Luckily you can consult several vital record alternatives that can be used to prove birth, marriage, or death. (Most will be accepted as proof by a lineage society.) Here are a few examples: Continue reading 8 More Vital Record Alternatives→
A great way to begin tracing your family history is to interview living relatives, asking for relevant birth, marriage, and death information. These interviews sometimes yield specific information (or at least an estimate), and you can then contact the appropriate authority to provide a copy of the original vital record.
But what do we do if grandma’s information fails to lead us to a vital record? Surprisingly, this is more common than you’d think, as people often misremember facts or were told the wrong information from the get-go. In this case, grandma may lead us on a wild goose chase trying to track down the correct location and/or date of a vital record. This may be especially annoying if the record is more recent, as statewide indexes for modern vital records are less common. To locate these modern vital records (civil records), we must first look for an alternative record to point us in the right direction. Here are some examples: Continue reading 7 Vital Record Alternatives→
There has always been some secrecy surrounding the Heisinger side of my family. My grandfather did not know anything about his paternal grandfather, Charles Heisinger, because my great-grandfather, Walter Heisinger, never spoke of his father. We were not even sure of his first name, only that we all had inherited the Heisinger surname from a mystery man. Undoubtedly there was some painful history that my great-grandfather did not wish to share with his children, but it left us with a hole in our family history.
While my personal ancestry does not have anyone who immigrated later than the 1700s, I have long been intrigued by the experiences of those who came in the latter 1800s and the early 1900s, such a time of concern about the influx of immigrants and what they might do to the country. Over the years I have acquired many published volumes and hundreds of digitized documents about immigrants and the immigration process. I am the only person I know who actually owns E. P. Hutchinson’s Legislative History of American Immigration Policy, 1798-1965, published in 1981.
Among the many laws that have been enacted since the first major immigration act in 1882 is the Alien Contract Labor Law of 1885, which was amended in 1887. This law specified that immigrants to the United States needed to show that they were capable of working, but they could not already have a job lined up. Some immigrants were exempt from this rule, including actors, artists, singers, domestic or personal servants, and skilled laborers—provided that no one else with their skills lived in the United States. In Massachusetts, for instance, mills could import seamstresses who did intricate and specialized embroidery because they could not find anyone in the United States who possessed that skill. In viewing case files of individuals deported upon arrival or later, I have come across many that invoked this law. Continue reading Immigration of the Slapshot→
Recently I uncovered some interesting information about my husband’s great-grandfather, Peter Consigli. According to the 6 September 1930 Boston Herald, federal agents from Boston carried out several raids in the town of Milford, Massachusetts, and arrested three men, including Peter, for the manufacture of liquor. According to my husband and father-in-law, no one in their family had ever mentioned this incident.
As a lifetime Bostonian who has seen her share of snowstorms (especially this year), I always look forward to Patriot’s Day (April 20 this year). It’s the official anniversary of the Battle of Lexington and Concord—which is re-enacted very early in the morning—but it’s also the unofficial first day of spring, signaled by the running of the Boston Marathon.
In honor of my favorite state holiday, I decided to research the life and family history of the first Boston Marathon winner, John J. McDermott. I assumed it would be easy— he won the first Boston Marathon, for goodness’ sake; there must be tons of literature about his life, right? Wrong! After he won that first Boston Marathon in 1897, John J. McDermott seemed to disappear from records. I searched newspapers and obituaries, read histories of marathon runners, and contacted local libraries, but I could not uncover evidence of what happened to him. Continue reading Where did the first Boston Marathon winner go?→
Patriots’ Day—the anniversary of the Battles of Lexington and Concord—is fast approaching here in Massachusetts. This particular holiday makes many of us a little reflective. Was my ancestor involved in the American Revolution? If you have ever been curious about that, here are some great resources to jump-start your research.
One of the best places to start looking is Virgil D. White’s Index to Revolutionary War Service Records. Available in the NEHGS research library, this particular series is a transcription of the General Index to Compiled Military Service Records of Revolutionary War Soldiers, Sailors, and Members of Army Staff Departments, also known as M860, housed at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. White’s transcription lists the rank, regiment, or company of each soldier, and is a fantastic resource because it includes every state of service. Consider yourself lucky if your ancestor had a rare name, such as Frederick Wingdorf. Frederick was a drummer in the 3rd Massachusetts Regiment, and—not surprisingly—was the only Frederick Wingdorf in the index. If you are not so lucky and your ancestors had very common names like Samuel Jones or William Moore or, worse, John Smith, you might need to consult secondary sources to help whittle down the long list of candidates. Continue reading Finding Revolutionary War Ancestors→