All posts by Scott C. Steward

About Scott C. Steward

Scott C. Steward has been NEHGS’ Editor-in-Chief since 2013. He is the author, co-author, or editor of genealogies of the Ayer, Le Roy, Lowell, Saltonstall, and Thorndike families. His articles have appeared in The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, NEXUS, New England Ancestors, American Ancestors, and The Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine, and he has written book reviews for the Register, The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, and the National Genealogical Society Quarterly.

2016: the year in review concluded

At the beginning of 2017, Vita Brevis can boast 1,177,549 page views: while individual readers have surely read multiple articles on a given visit, that million+ reader count is still impressive!

vita_brevis_bannerVita Brevis reached its one-millionth page view on 7 July, some two-and-a-half years after the blog’s launch on 10 January 2014:

“And what do [its contributing authors] write about?

“We write about what interests us, as researchers, as professional genealogists, as editors, as archivists. Sometimes the topic is our own research interests; sometimes we offer tips from our experience as a beginning, an intermediate, or an expert researcher; and sometimes we describe an aspect of our work, here in Boston or elsewhere as part of an NEHGS education program. Continue reading 2016: the year in review concluded

2016: the year in review

Each December I gather up a dozen blog posts from the year just ending, in hopes of giving new (and long-time) readers a sense of the breadth of content Vita Brevis offers.

San Francisco City HallOn 13 January, Zachary Garceau published a post on the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, marking the death of the last known survivor, William A. “Bill” Del Monte (1906–2016):

“In addition to the tragic loss of human life, the effects of another significant loss have been felt in the 110 years since that disastrous day. As a result of ruptured gas mains and other structural issues, several massive fires erupted, including one which swept through the San Francisco City Hall and its adjoining Hall of Records. Continue reading 2016: the year in review

‘A kind faithful friend’

[Author’s note: This series, on Mrs. Gray’s reading habits, began here.]

PP231.236 Regina Shober Gray. Not dated.
Regina Shober Gray by [Edward L.] Allen, ca. 1860. Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society, Item PP231.236
The year 1864 would be marked by several important changes in Regina Shober Gray’s[1] circle. The first was the announcement of Mrs. Gray’s friend Emily Adams’s[2] unexpected engagement, which was soon followed by the death of an early Boston friend, Anna Powell Jones.[3]

61 Bowdoin Street, Boston, Sunday, 3 January 1864: Every one is much surprised to [learn] of Emily Adams’ engagement to Caleb Curtis Jr. They have known each other all their lives, near neighbours and playmates from childhood – and have just discovered this penchant when she is 36 or 7 [sic] and he about a year younger. They know each other so well that each must be thoroughly aware what to expect from each other, in temper, character, intellect, & culture. So there can be little disappointment in that way. Continue reading ‘A kind faithful friend’

ICYMI: The Philadelphia box

[Editor’s note: This blog post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 26 December 2015.]

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

In 1860, when Regina Shober Gray began keeping her diary, gift-giving was spread between Christmas and New Year’s Day: indeed, the latter day was the more important of the two in the eyes of the Gray children. For at least the period of the Civil War, the Gray family of Boston impatiently awaited the arrival of “the Philadelphia box” – containing presents from Mrs. Gray’s siblings[1] – with shipment timed for the days around January 1. Continue reading ICYMI: The Philadelphia box

Lucky clues

During the war_2
My maternal grandparents with my mother.

On the face of it, my mother’s immediate family was Southern: her father was born in Norfolk, Virginia, and her mother in Baltimore, Maryland. Things quickly get complicated, though, as my grandfather’s mother and my grandmother’s father were both born in Ohio; it was their spouses’ respective families who had the Virginia and Maryland connections. A generation further back, and my great-great-grandfather William Boucher Jr. (1822–1899) is my most recent immigrant forebear, arriving from Mannheim in the Grand Duchy of Baden in 1845. It will not be surprising, perhaps, that some other nineteenth-century ancestors hailed from elsewhere in the United States, or that both of my maternal grandparents had a lot of New England ancestry. Continue reading Lucky clues

‘In this busy world’

[Author’s note: This series, on Mrs. Gray’s reading habits, began here.]

PP231.236 Regina Shober Gray. Not dated.
Regina Shober Gray by [Edward L.] Allen, ca. 1860. Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society, Item PP231.236
Regina Shober Gray[1] turned forty-five at the end of 1863; her children were growing up. At the same time, her younger sister Sue – unmarried and a ruthless flirt – worried Mrs. Gray, while changes wrought by the Civil War gave her some hope for the future:

61 Bowdoin Street, Boston, Sunday, 6 September 1863: Yesterday was Frank [Gray]’s[2] 17th birthday – how time flies. He is back at Harvard looking to a year of hard study. His chum, Abthorpe,[3] has not appeared yet, nor has he written to F., who hears from some that A. will not go on at Harvard another year; meanwhile Frank cannot settle in his new quarters till he does hear from Abthorpe – the poison-cold,[4] which has troubled F.C.G. for many years, 5 or 6, at this season, is far lighter in its attack now than ever before, and we hope it may be wearing out of his system.

Sunday, 13 September 1863: … Frank hears to-day that Abthorp is not coming back to Harvard – so he has lost his chum. We dined at Sallie Gray[5] on Tuesday and had a pleasant day. And on Monday p.m. took tea with Hepsa B[radlee][6] at Medford. Continue reading ‘In this busy world’

‘More than books can give’

[Author’s note: This series, on Mrs. Gray’s reading habits, began here.]

PP231.236 Regina Shober Gray. Not dated.
Regina Shober Gray by [Edward L.] Allen, ca. 1860. Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society, Item PP231.236
In this installment from the Gray diary, it is interesting to read Regina Shober Gray’s[1] description of a grand new house in the latest style, one marred – in her view – by a lack of “works of art, …bronzes, marbles or even Parians – not a picture worth glancing at…”[2] She is happier on a visit to Manchester in June 1863: “[I] gaze my fill with ever new delight at this lovely panorama of sea and shore, pasture and woodland, hoar old cliffs and long cruel reefs where the tormented waters churn themselves into white foam and froth, and long swaying streamers of sea-weed are tossed to and fro in ceaseless unrest.”[3]

61 Bowdoin Street, Boston, Sunday, 15 March 1863: A clear cold day – fine sleighing. Sallie G[ray][4] called for us yesterday p.m. in her large sleigh to go to Milton Hill…

Thursday p.m. we went to a party at Mrs. Hunnewell’s,[5] about 200, not a young party, and no dancing – a house warming in their splendid new house. The dress was quite magnificent – splendid laces and jewelry and plenty of room to display them in. Continue reading ‘More than books can give’

Surrounded by family

anne-ayer-for-vb
Anne Beekman Ayer

I trace my interest in genealogy to my early childhood. We lived surrounded by family – my paternal grandparents and uncle and aunt lived across the Ipswich River from us, and more distant cousins lived in nearby towns in Essex County, Massachusetts.

But while my parents and grandparents knew that they were related to these kinsmen – and my grandfather probably knew how, since he was closer to their common forebears – no one could explain the connection, at least at a child’s eye level. It made for an interesting mystery to solve. Continue reading Surrounded by family

‘The crooked paths straight’

abraham-lincoln-campaign-banner-cropped
Courtesy of Wikimedia.org

It might seem odd, but the 1860 election – pitting Congressman Abraham Lincoln and Senator Hannibal Hamlin against Senator John Cabell Breckenridge and Senator Joseph Lane – did not particularly transfix the nation – at least if one goes by Regina Shober Gray’s[1] diary.

There was plenty of pageantry on offer: Continue reading ‘The crooked paths straight’

‘A good work for the society’

[Author’s note: This series, on Mrs. Gray’s reading habits, began here.]

PP231.236 Regina Shober Gray. Not dated.
Regina Shober Gray by [Edward L.] Allen, ca. 1860. Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society, Item PP231.236
Late in January 1863, Major General George B. McClellan made a visit to Boston following an invitation from a group of civic leaders, one that included Regina Shober Gray’s[1] brother-in-law William Gray (1810–1892).

61 Bowdoin Street, Boston, Thursday, 29 January 1863: Mc.Clellan and his wife[2] arrived yesterday p.m. Wm. Gray took Fanny [Gray][3] up to Worcester with the delegation… Of course they had a delightful chance to make acquaintance. Fanny is charmed with Mrs. Mc C. – she & her father rode up to the Tremont House [Hotel] with them, and Mrs. McC. gave Fanny the bouquet which was presented to her at Worcester.

Tomorrow the great dinner & reception at W.G.’s comes off. It will be a regular jam I am afraid. The party at Lizzie Abbott’s last night went off very pleasantly. It was very pretty to look at, and Rebecca [Wainwright][4] and I, who felt quite elderly among the rest, quite enjoyed the looking. Continue reading ‘A good work for the society’