On Tuesday, NEHGS announced the first fruits of an historic collaboration with the Archdiocese of Boston, one where – over a period of years – Archdiocesan records will be digitized and made available on the NEHGS website, AmericanAncestors.org. In the fullness of time, this collaboration will preserve and make accessible unique records to tell the stories of some 10 million people from the earliest days of the Catholic community in Massachusetts through the twentieth century. These records are key because they often include events not captured in civil registrations. Whether because of a home birth or a conscious decision not to report an event to a civil authority, these documents might include the only written record for a birth or a death. Their importance and value cannot be overstated. Continue reading An historic collaboration
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.
On 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
Much has happened with the Society’s Civil War digitization project, funded by the Cabot Family Charitable Trust, since Abbey Schultz’s last article on quality assurance. Our vendor completed all scans in June 2016, ending the imaging portion of the project. The focus then shifted to preparing the images to be uploaded into CONTENTdm software so they can be displayed on our Digital Collections website. Continue reading Metadata
Because of the dedication of our many volunteers, we at the New England Historic Genealogy Society have the opportunity to continually expand the range of databases we provide to family researchers. Recently we have made a lot of progress indexing cemetery transcriptions from NEHGS manuscripts, creating a database complete with accompanying images. You may wonder why we are bothering to index these old manuscripts when there are so many other sources of cemetery information widely available on the Internet today. Continue reading Ancient burying grounds
The genealogy column in the Boston Evening Transcript newspaper has been one of the more heavily used resources at the NEHGS Library for the past century or more. The paper was published, under a few different titles, from 1830 to 1941. From 1906 through 1941, it featured a genealogy column in which readers would submit and respond to queries. During most of its run, the column appeared twice a week. According to an editors’ note which appeared in many issues, the newspaper was almost overwhelmed with submissions and had a backlog waiting to be published. The editors also claimed that they had “correspondents in every corner of the country.” By the time it ceased publication, the column had covered an estimated two million names. Continue reading Boston Transcript column now online
On October 27, NEHGS hosted a Family History Benefit Dinner featuring Bill Griffeth and Cokie Roberts, both accomplished news commentators and authors. Whereas Bill has written of his experiences with unexpected DNA results concerning his paternal side, Cokie has made a career of highlighting the lives of women in American history.
In honor of her accomplishments, the Society presented her with a Lifetime Achievement Award for History and Biography and a beautifully hand-bound book of her ancestors. As I compiled her robust genealogy, I worked to include the kinds of stories that would interest an author of female biographies. Continue reading The Other Half
The American Society of Genealogists (ASG) was conceived in 1940 by three giants in the field: Dr. Arthur Adams, John Insley Coddington, and Merdeith B. Colket, Jr. When it was incorporated in 1946, the first directors were Adams, Colket, Harry Wright Newman, Milton Rubincam, and Herbert F. Seversmith. Milton once confided to me over drinks at a genealogical conference that it all began as a bunch of guys getting together for drinks! The purpose was to associate themselves and others for their mutual benefit and for the advancement of genealogy (see www.fasg.org). Continue reading Honors
For the last few months I have been working with Judi Garner of the Jewish Heritage Center, here at NEHGS, on an exhibit of twentieth-century Jewish photographers and their subjects, and we are finally finished. The photos are framed and hung; the labels have been written, proofed, and attached to boards; a short show catalogue has been created; and my lecture has, largely, been written…
Tonight I will speak here in Boston on the show and its subject: Mitzi Hajos (pron. Hoy-uss), a Broadway chorine who became a one-name star along the lines of Cher or Madonna. Through photos of Mitzi, and the images taken by contemporary photographers of Broadway and Hollywood stars, we can trace the changing aesthetics of theatrical portraiture and the growing influence of the flickers – the photoplay – the movies that were, increasingly, produced in California. Continue reading Let’s put on a show!
Over the years I have had the honor of corresponding with veterans from the Spanish-American War, World War I, and World War II. But I must admit that corresponding and talking with some of the last widows of the Civil War was a highlight as a historian. It is hard for some now to comprehend that a widow of the Civil War could be living nearly 150 years after the start of the war, early in the twenty-first century. However there have been other widows who married very young to older veterans from previous wars with quite similar stories. Continue reading Remember the ladies
The Society has, hanging on its walls, a reproduction of the famous thirteenth-century Hereford Mappa Mundi, the original of which is in the collection of Hereford Cathedral in the west of England. A mappa mundi – from Medieval Latin mappa (cloth or chart) and mundi (of the world) – is any medieval European map of the world. Approximately 1,100 of these maps are known to exist today, of which the Hereford Cathedral version is the largest. In fact, it’s the largest medieval map in the world. Continue reading A mappa mundi