Thanks to a timely message alerting me to a collection of letters for sale at eBay, I recently acquired one side of the genealogical correspondence between Regina Shober Gray and the Rev. Richard Manning Chipman, author of The Chipman Lineage (1872). Mrs. Gray, so expansive in some areas of her diary, is comparatively terse with regard to the beginning of the correspondence: Continue reading ‘If space allows’
When I catalog new books received by the NEHGS library, my normal focus is, naturally, on the contents of the books themselves: the families and places described, the authors, the titles and publication information, and so on. But every now and then, the books we receive contain little “surprises” that go beyond the published words on the page. Over the years, we have found all kinds of objects left in books, from hand-drawn family trees to photographs and calling cards. Some of these items were clearly meant to supplement the books they were left in, and have definite genealogical import; others are only tangentially related to the book’s content. Still others are complete mysteries: we don’t know why they were left in the book, or if they were even left there on purpose. Continue reading Ex libris
The bins of my family memorabilia (my “squirrel bins”) occasionally allow a real gem or two to escape, those things I hope to find but which seldom surface: diaries, journals, or letters.
One such gem is a faded, handwritten letter dated Boise City, May 15, 1870. Written by Hannah (Brown) Libby to “Dear Mother Libby,” it is a poignant expression of homesickness while trying to maintain a positive outlook, an offer of more questions to be answered than answers given. I was intrigued, especially because this Hannah and “Mother Libby” are two faceless women in my long lineage. I have no photo of either woman, no other correspondence, writings, or stories. Continue reading A letter home
One early December a few years ago, my son asked if I would fill a cookie basket for his new landlord’s two little boys. I was making multiple dozens of cookies at the time, so I stuffed a green wooden Christmas basket for them and sent it off.
The following July when my son was visiting his landlord, the youngest boy approached carrying the basket as if to say “Please, Sir, may we have more?” Since then, the basket finds its way back to me in summer, and I overfill it for them every Christmas. It’s a new tradition of sorts, however short-lived it might be. Continue reading Christmas cookies
[Editor’s note: This blog post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 26 December 2015.]
In 1860, when Regina Shober Gray began keeping her diary, gift-giving was spread between Christmas and New Year’s Day: indeed, the latter day was the more important of the two in the eyes of the Gray children. For at least the period of the Civil War, the Gray family of Boston impatiently awaited the arrival of “the Philadelphia box” – containing presents from Mrs. Gray’s siblings – with shipment timed for the days around January 1. Continue reading ICYMI: The Philadelphia box
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
For some, the holidays are a time of heightened crafting – making wreaths, designing centerpieces, stringing popcorn garlands, knitting warm to-be-gifted hats and scarves, and building elaborate gingerbread wonderlands. For everyone, the holidays are a time to be with and celebrate family – present and past.
Since 2013, staff at NEHGS have combined spirited crafting and a passion for genealogy by creating special ornaments using (facsimiles of) family photographs. The ornaments adorn the tree at the Society and are taken home just before Christmas. Even among unrelated crafters, we can’t help but share the “who,” “what,” and “when” of our photos with each other. Some staff have even chosen to represent lines of descent within a single ornament (see below) – a family tree in 3D! Continue reading Deck the halls
I frequently contribute to a column on The Root online magazine, where I respond with Henry Louis Gates Jr. to genealogical questions from the readers. Often the questions involve trying to trace families back to the slavery period, which is a daunting and difficult task. Not only are records hard to come by, but the work can be an emotional rollercoaster.
It is mixed with the delight of finding an ancestor listed by name in a probate record, quickly followed by the realization that they are there because they were property. It can be hard to face the realities of the past when seeing children listed with monetary values next to their names, but also rewarding to know you have pieced a family together with the record. Continue reading Accounting for the care of slaves
[Author’s note: This series, on Mrs. Gray’s reading habits, began here.]
In this installment from the Gray diary, it is interesting to read Regina Shober Gray’s description of a grand new house in the latest style, one marred – in her view – by a lack of “works of art, …bronzes, marbles or even Parians – not a picture worth glancing at…” She is happier on a visit to Manchester in June 1863: “[I] gaze my fill with ever new delight at this lovely panorama of sea and shore, pasture and woodland, hoar old cliffs and long cruel reefs where the tormented waters churn themselves into white foam and froth, and long swaying streamers of sea-weed are tossed to and fro in ceaseless unrest.”
61 Bowdoin Street, Boston, Sunday, 15 March 1863: A clear cold day – fine sleighing. Sallie G[ray] called for us yesterday p.m. in her large sleigh to go to Milton Hill…
Thursday p.m. we went to a party at Mrs. Hunnewell’s, about 200, not a young party, and no dancing – a house warming in their splendid new house. The dress was quite magnificent – splendid laces and jewelry and plenty of room to display them in. Continue reading ‘More than books can give’
I trace my interest in genealogy to my early childhood. We lived surrounded by family – my paternal grandparents and uncle and aunt lived across the Ipswich River from us, and more distant cousins lived in nearby towns in Essex County, Massachusetts.
But while my parents and grandparents knew that they were related to these kinsmen – and my grandfather probably knew how, since he was closer to their common forebears – no one could explain the connection, at least at a child’s eye level. It made for an interesting mystery to solve. Continue reading Surrounded by family