Category Archives: Collections

ICYMI: Tracing your African roots at NEHGS

The Old Plantation. Courtesy of Wikimedia.org

[Editor’s note: This blog post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 2 February 2016.]

From tracing free people of color in New England to identifying former slaves in the deep south, NEHGS can help you tell your family story. We have a number of guides and tools in our library and available through our education department and online databases that can help you jump start researching your African American roots all over the United States, not just New England. Continue reading ICYMI: Tracing your African roots at NEHGS

Acts of genealogical kindness

I have tried to make it a point in my blogs to give heartfelt thanks to indexing efforts of the New England Historic Genealogy Society (NEHGS) volunteers whenever we bring a new or updated collection online. Several people have asked me exactly how volunteers fit in the indexing process. Answering this question requires a little perspective on what is involved in creating one of our databases.

Typically, the first step is scanning images from the original source materials. The volunteers come to the library here in Boston. Then, using a flatbed scanner or 35mm camera-based book scanner, the volunteer captures every page in the book. A critical part of this phase is to take care that the images are clear and that no pages have been inadvertently skipped. This seems straightforward, but when you are processing a few hundred pages extra vigilance is required. Continue reading Acts of genealogical kindness

‘Hand over hand’

Regina Shober Gray by [Edward L.] Allen, ca. 1860. Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society, Item PP231.236
Regina Shober Gray[1] often used her final diary entries for a year to review the previous twelve months. At the end of the year 1864, death was much on her mind, with the recent loss of her brother John; another close friend, generally noted in the diary as Miss Jones, had died the previous winter.

 61 Bowdoin Street, Boston, Sunday, 25 December 1864: A splendid Christmas day – but oh – how sad such days become to us, as life wears on, and our paths are more and more strewn with wrecks of lost hopes and “loves where death hath set his seal.” It is all I can do to keep back the tears to-day – to seem cheerful for the children’s sake. The past year has carried away 2 most precious friends, and all future life is shadowed with a sense of “retrieveless loss.”

My darling brother[2] – the playmate of childhood and the faithful friend of mature life. Continue reading ‘Hand over hand’

ICYMI: A thousand words

[Editor’s note: This blog post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 6 January 2016.]

Alice Selig Harris and friends

Coming from a family of active amateur photographers, the (still) new digital age of photography has significantly changed the way I look at and convey my world, its events, my life, and my family. Gone are the days of, “Oh, no, I just got to the end of a 36-exposure roll and missed the perfect picture I’ll never get again.” With three expensive cameras sitting in my closet collecting dust, like many of us I now use my smart phone for most of my photographic pursuits. This is not such a bad thing: it’s always in my pocket ready to get, as DeWitt Jones says, “not just a good frame, but a great frame.” Continue reading ICYMI: A thousand words

ICYMI: On with the dance

“What a joy it is to dance and sing”

[Author’s note: This post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 8 December 2015.]

As genealogists, we tend to focus on the more remote past, rarely pausing to consider our parents’ or grandparents’ times in a rush to get back to 1850, or 1750, or sometime before that. Someday, of course, 1950 will seem as remote to our descendants as 1750 does to us, and it behooves us to focus some attention on twentieth century research before that century, like the ones before it, vanishes from shared (and contemporary) memory. Continue reading ICYMI: On with the dance

‘Generosity and magnanimity of character’

Regina Shober Gray by [Edward L.] Allen, ca. 1860. Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society, Item PP231.236
In this diary entry Mrs. Gray[1] depicts some of the economic forces on an upper-class Boston family, one dependent on the largesse of wealthier family members. Her brother John Bedford Shober had died in November, survived by Mrs. Gray, several unmarried sisters, and a younger brother:

61 Bowdoin Street, Boston, Sunday, 18 December 1864: The business firm will go on at present under the old title – “Shober & Co.” – though Antony Kimber being the elder of the surviving partners has the right to insist on the appearance of his name, if he choose to – more especially as he is the more experienced business man, and largest capitalist of the two.

Dear John’s will was just what we all knew beforehand – all the property but $10,000 left to his devoted sister Mary,[2] expressly left in trust for the use of his unmarried sisters,[3] to keep up an affluent home for them; this has been for years the darling object of his life. Continue reading ‘Generosity and magnanimity of character’

Updating an exhibit

Courtesy of Arlene Ovalle-Child

In 2010 I visited the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. An exhibit that caught my eye was called Within these Walls, which told the stories of five families who lived in a house in Ipswich, Massachusetts for more than two centuries. The period covered ranges from the Choate family as American colonists in the 1750s to the Scott family during the Home Front of the 1940s. The second family covered, under the period of “Revolutionaries – 1777–1789,” was the Dodge family, under the heading “the Dodges and Chance.” The Dodge household included an African-American man named Chance, as noted in Abraham Dodge’s 1786 will, where Abraham left his wife Bethiah “all my Right to the Service of my Negro Man Chance.” At the time I saw this exhibit, that reference was essentially all the show’s curators knew about Chance. Continue reading Updating an exhibit

Conserving Catholic records volumes

Sample page from a Saint Patrick volume of marriage records.

If you have heard about our Historic Catholic Records Online project, in which NEHGS is digitizing and making accessible the sacramental records of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, you might be wondering what has been happening over the past few months with the volumes that contain the records.

There is a regular supply of record volumes coming in and going out, and for those volumes in need of conservation, a lot can happen as they are prepared for scanning. Our Conservation Lab has received many volumes in seriously poor condition. Take, for example, this volume from Saint Patrick’s in Lowell, Massachusetts. It contains marriage records from 1836 to 1872. Continue reading Conserving Catholic records volumes

‘Business without change’

Regina Shober Gray by [Edward L.] Allen, ca. 1860. Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society, Item PP231.236
As it happened, Mrs. Gray[1] was too late to reach her brother’s deathbed:

Philadelphia, Sunday, 4 December 1864: One week to-day since our precious brother[2] died – died to earth with all its torturing pain, its long drawn weariness and waked to peace and rest – “the rest that remaineth to them that love the Lord” in Heaven.

He was seized with convulsions on Friday p.m. about 6 o’c. and they lasted with intervals of two or three breathings – and once of 2 hours, till about 3 p.m. on Sunday, when he sank, with a few sobbing breaths, ever fainter and fainter into the everlasting stillness … Continue reading ‘Business without change’

What’s new in the Library?

The NEHGS Library is always adding new and interesting items to our collections. These come from purchases we make, and from numerous donations to the Society.

You can keep current with additions to our collections by viewing our monthly list of new titles, available through the library’s online catalog. Check here to view new items from the past few months. A new list will be posted at the beginning of each month, along with occasional special featured lists. Currently we have a list of genealogies with online versions, and a list of Italian genealogy and history titles. You can find new materials, and other featured lists, from the main search screen of the library catalog, as shown at left: Continue reading What’s new in the Library?