Since childhood I have loved flea markets and genealogy. As a genealogist, I have often discovered the lost treasures of other families and purchased them. When I was about twelve years old, I attended a barn sale near Campton, New Hampshire. As the adult collectors pored over the antique farm equipment, I looked through trunks with old photographs and papers. Sitting out on a table was a small metal plaque; at first glance, it appeared to be a silver serving dish. When I picked it up and saw a name and a death date, though, I got curious. I purchased this item for $3.00 and brought it home that summer. Continue reading Remembering Rosella
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
[Author’s note: This series, on Mrs. Gray’s reading habits, began here.]
The “fascinating but demoralizing” waltz was a comparatively recent addition to Boston social gatherings, and Regina Shober Gray’s daughter Mary was one young débutante who worried that waltzing (or “dancing the German,” as it was also known) might lead her astray – which would be de-moralizing, in Mrs. Gray’s parlance.
61 Bowdoin Street, Boston, Friday, 26 February 1864: …At Mrs. Hemenway’s, we talked wholly about our young daughters, Amy H. and my Mary and their friends. We think they are going to make a very nice sensible, high-toned set of girls; and it is a real comfort to feel so. Mary used to think she should be quite isolated in her set, from not dancing the round dances, but as one and another of her young friends comes out with her protest against them, it quite pleases Mary to find that many of the nicest girls unite with her in the resolution to eschew the fascinating but demoralizing “German.” Continue reading Fascinating rhythm
In a small section of the town of Smithfield, Rhode Island, all that remains of a once thriving village are a few stone foundations and three legible gravestones. For nearly two centuries, many have speculated about the fate of the residents of Hanton City, an abandoned village named after the Hanton family who once resided there. The settlement is a considerable distance from all the other settlements in Smithfield which were occupied at the time of its existence, leading many to wonder about its purpose, as well as the reason it was eventually abandoned. Continue reading No ‘notorious scandals’
Paul Revere’s famous ride is often the jumping off point for thinking about the Revolutionary War. But there is a lesser known patriot – a woman, too – who helped win the war and changed the course of history.
Her name was Sybil Ludington, and she was born 5 April 1761 in Connecticut as the eldest child of Henry and Abigail Ludington. On the rainy night of 25 April 1777, as British troops were advancing to attack Danbury, Connecticut, Sybil, only 16 years old at the time, took off on her famous 40 mile horseback ride to alert approximately 400 militiamen under the control of her father, Colonel Henry Ludington. She was chosen for the task because the original messenger, who had ridden to notify her father of the advancing British troops, was too tired from his first trip and could not proceed. Continue reading In praise of Sybil Ludington
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
[Author’s note: This series, on Mrs. Gray’s reading habits, began here.]
Regina Shober Gray continued to take an interest in her neighbors:
61 Bowdoin Street, Boston, Friday, 5 February 1864: A lovely day which tempted me out to make a few long intended calls, on dear old Mrs. Davis [and] Mrs. Wm. Lyman, who [has] been shut up for sixteen weeks, but is as handsome and as fascinating as ever… Sam [Gray] & I spent an hour this p.m., at De Vries’ store, looking over [Gustave] Dore’s Illustrations of Dante’s [Divine Comedy] – the most weird, wonderful, powerful things conceivable on the subject. I have ordered a set of card photographs from them – as part of Emily Adams’s New Year present to me. She sent me $50, and this is the first thing I have decided on…
Last evening we all went to meet General Burnside and wife at a family party at Wm. Gray’s – a pleasant evg. He is a splendid looking man, tall, with a grand build, fine eyes, teeth, complexion, and a very taking smile. His wife quiet, ladylike, unpretending, not pretty but sensible & very pleasing… Continue reading ‘A morning at the public library’
Over the holidays, my mother gave me the very nice present of a family register that began with my great-great-great-grandparents – Robert and Emma (Russell) Thompson of Industry, Maine. This framed register used to hang on a wall at my grandparents’ home in Kansas, and I had taken notes from it when I got interested in family history. My mother got it after her mother’s death in 2008, and she decided I was the best relative to receive it. This register was produced by D. Needham, 12 Exchange St, Buffalo, and years ago I recognized a copy of the same style register for sale in our own bookstore. Continue reading A family register
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’
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