Category Archives: ICYMI

ICYMI: The Name Game

[Editor’s note: This blog post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 4 February 2015.]

Bonus note: Vita Brevis blogger Penny Stratton is retiring from NEHGS today after ten years on the Publications team. In honor of her departure, I asked her to pick a post to run again. The finalists involved one about apostrophes; one about changes in technology during her career; one about her late father; and the one here—about family names. Penny will continue to do occasional work for NEHGS and promises to contribute more posts to Vita Brevis, and to continue to correct grammar and punctuation in whatever publication she is handed.

The first Emma, Emma (Byrt) Powell.
The first Emma, Emma (Byrt) Powell.

When my daughter was born, we chose the name Emma for her. Like many first-time parents, we considered and discarded many names. But we kept circling back to Emma because it’s a family name, and it follows an interesting pattern:

Emma Powell, born 1836 in Bristol, England

Ella Byrt, born 1860 in Chicopee, Massachusetts

Emma Ladd, born 1886 in New York

Ella Clark, born 1915 in Richmond Hill, New York Continue reading ICYMI: The Name Game

ICYMI: Double-dating

[Editor’s note: This blog post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 5 January 2015.]

Charles I death warrant
The Death Warrant of King Charles I, http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/pathways/citizenship/rise_parliament/docs/charles_warrant.htm

Millions of British citizens and their colonial counterparts across the Atlantic Ocean went to sleep on 2 September 1752 and woke up on 14 September. This shift in dates was due to an Act of Parliament passed in 1750, known as Chesterfield’s Act, which put into motion a series of changes that fundamentally altered the way that many measured time. Continue reading ICYMI: Double-dating

ICYMI: Jump starting your genealogical research

[Author’s note: This blog post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 19 December 2014.]

Newbury Street TodayConsider sending a holiday letter out via email to your relatives. Then print a copy for posterity. – David Allen Lambert Continue reading ICYMI: Jump starting your genealogical research

ICYMI: Historic occupations

[Editor’s note: This blog post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 12 November 2014.]

Cordwainer imageWhile writing my blog focusing on archaic medical terms a few months ago, I began thinking about other aspects of everyday life that appeared in records used by genealogists. One element of an individual’s life which appeared on everything from wills to land deeds to town records was occupation. While some of the occupations listed on records throughout the last four hundred years still exist today (farmers, blacksmiths, and wood workers, to name a few), many of these jobs either are known by a different name or are entirely obsolete in modern society.  Continue reading ICYMI: Historic occupations

ICYMI: Genealogical complexities

[Author’s note: This post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 3 September 2014.]

Amy Lowell2When I started out as a genealogical writer, I followed the model of genealogies published earlier in the twentieth century. The genealogical world they depicted was an orderly one, with generation after generation born in one place, married in another, and buried in a third. The greatest dramas I faced in writing my first book (The Sarsaparilla Kings, published in 1993) concerned cousins who deplored the information I had uncovered on their brief first or second marriages, information they were reluctant to see in print. Continue reading ICYMI: Genealogical complexities

ICYMI: Puritan Pedigrees

[Editor’s note: This post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 22 August 2014.]

Robert Charles Anderson_June 2014_1Now that my book on genealogical research methods (Elements of Genealogical Analysis) is out, I have turned my attention to the series of lectures I will be delivering in October and November [2014]; these, in turn, will form the basis for a future book entitled Puritan Pedigrees: The Deep Roots of the Great Migration to New England.

In most of the Great Migration volumes, I have been able to examine the motivations of the migrating families only in the context of events at the time of migration. A few years ago, while working on The Winthrop Fleet, I began to get a better feel for the deeper connections and influences which had been developing for decades and for generations leading up to the migration decision.  Continue reading ICYMI: Puritan Pedigrees

ICYMI: Tips for searching on AmericanAncestors.org

[Editor’s note: This post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 17 July 2014. Since the time of that posting, we have made enhancements to our search functionality on AmericanAncestors.org that return broader results without using wildcards.  The wildcard strategy still works as advertised, however.]

When we were deciding how our AmericanAncestors.org database search would work, one of the key considerations was that we didn’t want to return search results that contained a lot of ‘noise.’ On other websites, the database architects allowed for a certain (sometimes significant) number of irrelevant search results. This was undoubtedly intended to be helpful, but it is actually quite frustrating. So we decided to do ‘exact’ searches with a couple of twists. The goal was to give results that were exactly what you searched for. We spent quite a lot of time tuning our search algorithm, trying different approaches and analyzing the results. We’re pretty happy with our final approach, but it’s definitely helpful to understand how it works. And what the twists are. Continue reading ICYMI: Tips for searching on AmericanAncestors.org

ICYMI: The Great Migration in Vita Brevis

[Editor’s note: This post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 6 June 2014.]

St Bartholomews Groton
St. Bartholomew’s Church, Groton, Suffolk

Over the last five months, Vita Brevis has featured a number of blog posts about the Great Migration Study Project and related subjects. Robert Charles Anderson, the project’s director, has written on the topic, as have Alicia Crane Williams and Roger Thompson. Bob’s posts tend to focus on his continuing research in this area, whether it is his trips to Salt Lake City to review a thorny question about identity or the latest literature on the subject as he prepares to write a book tentatively entitled Puritan Pedigrees: The Deep Roots of the Great Migration to New England. Continue reading ICYMI: The Great Migration in Vita Brevis

ICYMI: Why they came

[Editor’s note: The post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 15 May 2014.]

CharlestownCoverWhy most people went to Charlestown during the seventeenth century we can only guess. Individuals were usually far too occupied during preparation, emigration, and plantation to record their reasons for undertaking this life-threatening ordeal. We can only adduce possible factors from the heart-searchings of such (hardly typical) emigrants as Governor Winthrop, and from the prevailing conditions in emigrant areas of England.

Charlestown was settled by striving young Bristolians and Londoners driven to escape the frustrating economic conditions at home. Historians of early seventeenth-century London and Bristol emphasize the power of privileged corporate groups like the East India Company, the Levant Company, and the London and Bristol Merchant Adventurers over traditional links with the Iberian Peninsula, the Mediterranean, and the Far East. Continue reading ICYMI: Why they came

ICYMI: Useful databases at AJHS-NEA

[Editor’s note: This post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 25 April 2014.]

garner-400As the American Jewish Historical Society, New England Archives (AJHS–NEA) has only recently formed a strategic partnership with the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS), anyone interested in New England Jewish history or genealogy may want to know about several databases and collections that might be specifically useful for genealogical research. They include the following:

The Records of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, Boston (HIAS). The Boston office of HIAS was chartered in 1904 and operated autonomously from the national office in New York, even after their merger in 1916. Continue reading ICYMI: Useful databases at AJHS-NEA