Category Archives: Genealogical Writing

Desktop publishing woes

Desktop publishing refers to computer programs that allow you to create works with both text and graphics in the same file. I never got into the Mac and Apple world, so my experience is only with PC programs such as Microsoft Word, which has always done well with text, but is limited when incorporating graphics. Programs such as Microsoft Publisher and Adobe InDesign pick up the gap between programs that specialize in words and those that specialize in pictures.

My go-to program in the past has been Microsoft Publisher. When it originally came out thirty years ago, it emphasized the ability to take large Word files and merge them into larger book-length files and then convert them to formats that were used by commercial printers, such as PDFs. Today one can create a PDF file directly from within the Microsoft Word program. If one does not need sophisticated graphics for a book, therefore, one does not necessarily need a desktop publishing program. Continue reading Desktop publishing woes

Flower power

A Sage family gathering: June Sage Peck (1896-1991) next to husband Ernest Bedford Payne (1902-1970), fourth and fifth from left.

Sometimes in the course of studying family history it helps when the right sort of inspiration knocks at our door. Blog sites like Vita Brevis and different forms of social media allow ways for like minded people of similar genealogical concerns to reach out to one another. And while I would not exactly consider Findagrave.com a “social networking site,” a recent experience reminds me that the inspiration to study family history can come from many different sources.

Seven years ago, I placed virtual flowers on-line for the memorial to my great-uncle Ernest Bedford Payne (1902–1970).[1] I find placing virtual flowers on findagrave memorials does two things: (a) it allows me to pay respect to my loved ones, and (b) allows me a trail of bread crumbs letting me know if I have previously visited a memorial I might not readily remember the next time around. I must confess I hadn’t been back to visit Uncle Ernest’s memorial in quite a while. Continue reading Flower power

Cross connections

The next new Early New England Families Study Project sketch to be uploaded will be for Roger Goodspeed of Barnstable. Roger is a first-generation immigrant who arrived in New England sometime before December 1641, when he was married in Barnstable to Alice/Allis Layton.

Roger and Alice settled and lived in Barnstable for the rest of their lives; they had twelve children. Their daughter Ruth has a cross connection to Early New England Families subject Nathaniel Bacon through Nathaniel’s second wife, Hannah Lambert/Lumbert?, who became the third wife of Ruth’s widower, John Davis! Roger and Alice’s granddaughter, Alice Goodspeed, married Benjamin Shelley, son of Robert Shelley. Continue reading Cross connections

Sisters as sources

My mother and her siblings.

Each year, on the first Sunday in August, we celebrate National Sisters Day. Growing up together, we often take our sisters for granted. The older we become, the more we tend to cherish our shared experiences and the more we realize that our sisters (and the sisters in each generation) may hold the keys to learning more about our direct ancestors.

My sister and I share responsibilities as memory keepers for our family – but in unique ways. Continue reading Sisters as sources

ICYMI: Middlesex County court records

[Editor’s note: This blog post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 8 March 2016.]

Some of Roger Touthaker’s testimony.

When researching a family, one can quickly become focused on names, birthdates, and death dates. It is easy to get caught up on going as far back as possible until reaching the metaphorical brick wall, and being left with a “well, what do I do now?” mentality. Seventeenth-century immigrants can be incredibly difficult to trace and track, but learning about them in public records can help add meaning to and information about their lives. Continue reading ICYMI: Middlesex County court records

Never mentioned

“Some secrets never leave us alone…” – Diane Capri

Opal Young (1895-1978)

In my father’s house, there was a subject we were forbidden to speak of. This was the subject of my grandmother’s adoption and her biological mother.[i] Under pain of reprisal, we were told never to speak of it – or of her. We didn’t even know her name, and what leaked through the hushed whispers of grown-up conversation was not murmured with much kindness.

The secret of grandmother’s adoption was the order of the day as long as my adopted great-grandmother was living. My great-grandmother was greatly revered, so for us to cause her any duress would rank as an unforgivable transgression. These “never to mention” rules stayed in effect long after my great-grandmother’s death in 1970 – though this maxim certainly didn’t stop the budding genealogist in me from finding new angles to find out the truth behind the whispers. Continue reading Never mentioned

Become an expert

I did not learn to spell properly until I learned to type at the Katharine Gibbs School. This may have had something to do with my less-than-perfect handwriting. Seeing a word in type instead of scribble helps me spot the errors.

In genealogy, of course, we run into all kinds of spellings, and it is hard to decide whether we should use the literal spelling from the record or modernize and standardize the word or name. I have had to standardize words for clients who simply could not deal with “misspellings.” Also, in the case of documents where superscripts and abbreviations are used, like “ye” for “the” or strange letters, such as “ff” for capital F, converting to typed text is all the more complicated. Continue reading Become an expert

Online teaching

I think I survived my first foray into online teaching Wednesday night when I gave my lecture on “Working in and Understanding Original Records” as the third presentation in the NEHGS Online Course “Researching New England,” a fee-based program open to NEHGS members.[1] The course began on July 5, with David Dearborn’s class on “Settlement of New England”; then, on July 12, Lindsay Fulton gave the second class on “Seventeenth-century Published Resources.” The two classes after me are by David Lambert, “Researching Colonial and Revolutionary War Soldiers” on July 26, and Chris Child, “Thinking Outside the Box: Breaking Down Brick Walls in Early New England” on August 2. Continue reading Online teaching

‘A note unsaid’

“Whoever marries the spirit of this age will find himself a widower in the next.” – William Ralph Inge

Mary Peak Schooley (1820-1898?)

In family history, a blissful and naive notion often occurs when we begin to think we have learned all there is to know about any given ancestor. From records of birth and marriage, to census images and cemetery stones, and even through the occasional “copy and pasted” family tree, how could we not have? It’s tempting to give into the idea that it all the “evidence is in.” Yet despite all of our best research or garnered facts there is still much out there that is only revealed in time.

I experienced this when I looked at what was known about my paternal great-great-great-grandmother Mary Peak Schooley (1820–1898?). I hadn’t paid a lot of attention to Mary Schooley. I’d been to the cemetery at Leanna, Kansas several times, but the research on Mary had been done before – by her great-granddaughter, my cousin Barbara Andruss Irwin.[i] Continue reading ‘A note unsaid’

Legacy

I just spent a nice afternoon with Tom, a fellow Alden descendant and historian, talking about the Alden legacy. He is gathering information on what he’s calling his “Aldens-engaging-with-Aldenness” project that may become a book.

He wanted to know how I was first introduced to the Aldens (my grandmother discovered our line when I was about three and had my picture taken sitting next to Priscilla’s gravestone), how I got involved with the Alden Kindred (they needed a genealogist and I needed the cachet for my professional resume), and such things as my opinions on hereditary societies and attitude towards our Pilgrim ancestors. Continue reading Legacy