All posts by Rhonda McClure

About Rhonda McClure

Rhonda R. McClure, Genealogist, is a nationally recognized professional genealogist and lecturer specializing in New England and celebrity research as well as computerized genealogy; is compiler of more than 120 celebrity family trees; has been a contributing editor for Heritage Quest Magazine, Biography magazine and was a contributor to The History Channel Magazine and American History Magazine. In addition to numerous articles, she is the author of ten books, including the award-winning The Complete Idiot's Guide to Online Genealogy, now in its second edition, Finding Your Famous and Infamous Ancestors, and Digitizing Your Family History.

Czech surnames

krejci-1-1024x819While working on a research problem in preparation for a consultation, I wanted to determine how common the surname Kucera was in the Czech Republic. A name that seems fairly unusual here in the United States is often as common as Smith back in the old country. I found a web site, Czech Surnames, that gave a great deal of information about the origins of different Czech surnames, but also had a listing of the top 20 most popular surnames in the country for the years 1937, 1964, and 1996. I discovered that Kucera, which means “curly,” was and is the ninth most common surname in the country. For the research problem in the consultation this was not necessarily good news, but it substantiated the above premise. Continue reading Czech surnames

Hunting for a church

First Presbyterian Church of Chester NY
The First Presbyterian Church of Chester, New York.

While working in the Ask-a-Genealogist questions last week, I found myself looking at questions on where to turn for records to prove the baptisms or residences of ancestors, which are actually rather typical. However, in offering guidance to these individuals, I realized how little the hunt was for the ancestor and how important the hunt for the church or town would be. Continue reading Hunting for a church

An active pursuit

belfast map proniWhile the variety of televised programs about family history have certainly increased interest in the hobby, I fear that it has begun to supply a skewed approach to genealogical research. So many of these shows show others doing the research for the person, and then making the big reveal, that more often than not we find visitors to the NEHGS Research Center here in Boston expecting us to do the actual research for them.

Don’t get me wrong – I love to assist family historians with their research. We all need a little guidance from time to time as we struggle with a particular line on the family tree. And I understand that for many people this is a new hobby and they may not understand what to do. Continue reading An active pursuit

Taking a road trip without stops

As many readers will already know, when I am not immersed in genealogy I am probably doing something that involves reading about, watching, studying, or writing about hockey. Such was the case this past weekend, as I traveled by car from Boston to Buffalo, New York, for the annual Combine – a grueling physical fitness testing day for hockey prospects in preparation for the NHL draft at the end of June. Continue reading Taking a road trip without stops

It’s in print, but is it true?

Massachusetts VR to 1850 Mendon Births p55I was recently asked a question that reinforces the point that we must look at original genealogical records, even when the published resources are ones that have been considered trustworthy. The question was about Isaiah Corbett, son of Joseph and Deborah, who was born in Mendon, Massachusetts. There are what appear to be two entries for this particular individual.

As can be seen in the page from the NEHGS Database “Massachusetts Vital Records to 1850” showing Mendon Births, there is an Isaiah Corbett, son of Joseph and Deborah, born in Mendon on 26 June 1757. Two lines below this is a Josaiah, son of Joseph Jr., born in Mendon 26 June 1739. Continue reading It’s in print, but is it true?

Revisiting parents and grandparents

ray standerfer treeAs someone who has been doing her genealogy since the 1980s, I can remember a time before there were many genealogy software options, let alone online databases. In fact, I started my genealogy on forms in a big legal size binder that I would take with me to the library as I scrolled, page by page, through microfilmed census records. Because I started so long ago, most of my research time – when I actually do get a chance to work on my own family – is concentrated on the generations furthest removed in time from the present. Continue reading Revisiting parents and grandparents

The lady vanishes

paris civil recordsThe name Martha Babcock Greene Amory might not immediately resonate, but the lives of her immediate forebears are well-known to us today. She was born in Boston 15 November 1812, the daughter of Gardiner Greene and his third wife, Elizabeth Clarke Copley. Mrs. Greene was the daughter of John Singleton Copley, the well-known American painter, and his wife Susannah Farnum Clarke; she was the granddaughter of Richard Clarke, whose consignment of tea was thrown into the harbor during the Boston Tea Party. That’s a lot of history for just a couple of generations! Continue reading The lady vanishes

Northeastern University’s roots

Mathews Arena
Courtesy of Northeastern University

Genealogy is the never-ending story of your ancestors as you track them down and learn about the lives they lived. It is also the opportunity to learn about the communities in which they resided. Recently, I had the opportunity to learn a little bit more about the place I now reside and about a university that I visit a lot from October to March, spending many weekend evenings in Matthews Arena, the oldest indoor ice hockey arena still in use for the sport. Continue reading Northeastern University’s roots

Hockey and Canada, 1914-18

1917 interned canadians switzerland
The Champion Hockey Team, 1917. Canada Dept. of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada

There is one thing that many people know about me, and that is that when I am not busily researching family trees and helping patrons here at the New England Historic Genealogical Society’s research center, the odds are pretty good that I am off somewhere watching hockey or studying its history. In fact, I just returned from a trip to Montréal to see the Montréal Canadiens beat the Boston Bruins. Had I known then of the exhibit currently on display at the Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa, I might have headed west, once I crossed the border, instead of going on to Montréal. However, it wasn’t until I had returned and was finalizing some pieces for a webinar that I saw the item on the website of the Library and Archives Canada (LAC). Continue reading Hockey and Canada, 1914-18

Immigration of the Slapshot

Letter from the Black Hawks seeking authorization to import three players.*
Letter from the Black Hawks seeking authorization to import three players.*

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