Recently, as I was browsing Google, I noticed their doodle for the day. It was honoring Elizabeth “Bessie” Coleman, who was born 26 January 1892. She was the first woman of African American and Native American descent to receive her pilot’s license, and she was also the first person of African American and Native American descent to receive an international pilot’s license. Continue reading A pair of firsts
For the past three years I have been laboring on a Microsoft Word document that details every mention of James O’Neil and his family in the historical record. Now it is more a labor of love, but when it was created, it came from a place of frustration. I knew so little.
James is my great-great-great-grandfather. His daughter, Annie, died when my great-grandfather was just eight years old, and little information was passed down in the family. Continue reading Wrongful death
Most of us will remember the childhood Alphabet Song used to teach children their letters (hum along if you’d like): “A-B-C-D-E-F-G… Now I’ve learned my ABCs, tell me what you think of me.” Vita Brevis has given a new variation on this “alpha-tradition.”
In my post “If This House Could Talk,” I mentioned my grandfather Rex Church (1883–1956) and his childhood handmade wooden alphabet blocks. The photo I provided showed only the four blocks representing the surname initials of the four families who have lived in My Old House since its construction in 1789. Continue reading A block buster
In my youth I used to make trips to the Connecticut State Archives in Hartford, Connecticut, to access their great collection, particularly the microfilmed probates and deeds. More recently, I have had to settle for Charles William Manwaring’s book, A Digest of the Early Connecticut Probate Records, so I am delighted that the Connecticut probate files are now available on Ancestry.com: “Connecticut, Wills and Probate Records, 1609–1999.” (Don’t ask me what the 1609 refers to!) Since Manwaring’s book only contains brief abstracts from the records, it is good to be able to compare them to the original files – particularly since Manwaring’s abstracts seem to have been made from the copy book versions, rather than the original files, which in some cases contain more than the books. Continue reading Connecticut probate records
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
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 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
Researching in Québec has many advantages: church records, census records, and notarial records are all at one’s disposal. But as with any kind of research, we can inevitably hit a brick wall. At this juncture, newspapers may offer some clues. Continue reading Québec newspapers
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
This past week we held our annual Volunteer Luncheon, thanking all the volunteers at NEHGS for the prodigious amount of work they do to help our Society. Here on the database team, we have many volunteers who help scan and index the original material from which we create our databases. We want to highlight some of the databases that we have re-released lately and the volunteers who have made this possible.
Why do we “re-release” our databases? Many of our databases are fully searchable throughout seven categories: first name, last name, year, record type, parents’ names, spouses’ names, and location. However, some of our older collections are not indexed with all of that information. Continue reading Thankful for our volunteers
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