Tag Archives: Research tips

Forgotten lines

“Our dead are never dead to us, until we have forgotten them.” – George Eliot

My love of family history came from my grandmother. Growing up, I recall asking a lot of genealogical questions that most of my family couldn’t even begin to answer – except, of course, for Grandma Record. She had the gift of recall, and could summon a second cousin’s birth date as easily as she recalled (by rote) the names of the streets in the small town where she grew up – sixty years later. Indeed it was my grandmother who kept what records we “Records” did keep – when we kept any at all. Continue reading Forgotten lines

ICYMI: Tracing your African roots at NEHGS

The Old Plantation. Courtesy of Wikimedia.org

[Editor’s note: This blog post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 2 February 2016.]

From tracing free people of color in New England to identifying former slaves in the deep south, NEHGS can help you tell your family story. We have a number of guides and tools in our library and available through our education department and online databases that can help you jump start researching your African American roots all over the United States, not just New England. Continue reading ICYMI: Tracing your African roots at NEHGS

Online teaching

I think I survived my first foray into online teaching Wednesday night when I gave my lecture on “Working in and Understanding Original Records” as the third presentation in the NEHGS Online Course “Researching New England,” a fee-based program open to NEHGS members.[1] The course began on July 5, with David Dearborn’s class on “Settlement of New England”; then, on July 12, Lindsay Fulton gave the second class on “Seventeenth-century Published Resources.” The two classes after me are by David Lambert, “Researching Colonial and Revolutionary War Soldiers” on July 26, and Chris Child, “Thinking Outside the Box: Breaking Down Brick Walls in Early New England” on August 2. Continue reading Online teaching

Circumstantial evidence

Courtesy of Findagrave.com

As a researcher at NEHGS, I have learned a great deal about genealogy and have gradually implemented various research strategies as I encountered them, typically by asking my extremely intelligent coworkers what they would do with any given case. However, I tend to learn from doing rather than simply from having someone tell me what to do or how to do it. Which leads me to one case in particular that has really stuck with me as a learning experience, the ancestry of Laura (Smith) Kingsley.

When the records are not there for a certain individual you are researching, one suggestion is to look into other people in the family including siblings, aunts and uncles, in-laws, etc. I admit that when I began doing genealogy I did not fully comprehend how looking at someone other than the research subject would help with my research efforts. However, the case of Laura Smith Kingsley lit up the imaginary light bulb over my head and helped to illustrate situations such as these. Continue reading Circumstantial evidence

Acts of genealogical kindness

I have tried to make it a point in my blogs to give heartfelt thanks to indexing efforts of the New England Historic Genealogy Society (NEHGS) volunteers whenever we bring a new or updated collection online. Several people have asked me exactly how volunteers fit in the indexing process. Answering this question requires a little perspective on what is involved in creating one of our databases.

Typically, the first step is scanning images from the original source materials. The volunteers come to the library here in Boston. Then, using a flatbed scanner or 35mm camera-based book scanner, the volunteer captures every page in the book. A critical part of this phase is to take care that the images are clear and that no pages have been inadvertently skipped. This seems straightforward, but when you are processing a few hundred pages extra vigilance is required. Continue reading Acts of genealogical kindness

Shared DNA through both parents

Recently I gave a webinar about choosing a DNA test and breaking down the differences between AncestryDNA, 23andme, and FamilyTreeDNA. When it came to autosomal DNA, I included the fact that 23andme and FamilyTreeDNA provide a chromosome view of how you share DNA with your matches while AncestryDNA does not, giving you just the summary of how much CentiMorgans are shared and along how many segments. For these reasons I do recommend people who test with AncestryDNA to also upload their DNA onto Gedmatch so they can better visualize some of their matches. A question I get concerns why does this matter? I now have an ideal example to share. Continue reading Shared DNA through both parents

Once an heiress

The R.M.S. Pannonia, the ship Anna Barkassy would arrive on and her point of departure for the rest of America. Courtesy of greatships.net

One of my perennial and poignant brick walls is the story behind my wife Nancy’s maternal grandmother Anna Barkassy Pouget (1883–1921). Annie, as she is often called, arrived from Hungary with her father Andràs, an attorney, and passed through Ellis Island on 30 January 1906.[i] Annie’s story is like that of many other turn-of-the-twentieth-century Ellis Island immigrants in that her family name offers only a limited sense of her identity.[ii] Annie and her father traveled together; the passenger manifest reflects scant clues as to who or what they might be leaving behind in the old country – and negligible information regarding their business here on arrival. Continue reading Once an heiress

Three words

A screenshot showing a range of open tabs along the way to becoming organized.

Enjoyable, rewarding, and complex – three words that come to mind when I describe my work at NEHGS. As researchers and writers, we have the pleasure of making discoveries and documenting them for current and future generations. However, that comes with many responsibilities requiring juggling multiple projects. How can we keep track of so many research and writing projects while still giving our best efforts to each?

In answer, I offer three more words – conceptualize, organize, and prioritize. These are the actions that guide my work flow in order to maintain momentum on various projects – and they should be applicable to genealogical projects on any scale! Continue reading Three words

‘The hurrier I go’

As the White Rabbit said in Alice in Wonderland, “The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.” We’ve all been there. The good news is that two new Early New England Families Study Project sketches are being posted to Americanancestors.org this week: John Hollister of Wethersfield and Thomas Nichols of Hingham. In addition, two second-version treatments are also being posted: Samuel Jenney of Plymouth and Dartmouth, and Joseph Andrews of Hingham. Continue reading ‘The hurrier I go’

Updating an exhibit

Courtesy of Arlene Ovalle-Child

In 2010 I visited the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. An exhibit that caught my eye was called Within these Walls, which told the stories of five families who lived in a house in Ipswich, Massachusetts for more than two centuries. The period covered ranges from the Choate family as American colonists in the 1750s to the Scott family during the Home Front of the 1940s. The second family covered, under the period of “Revolutionaries – 1777–1789,” was the Dodge family, under the heading “the Dodges and Chance.” The Dodge household included an African-American man named Chance, as noted in Abraham Dodge’s 1786 will, where Abraham left his wife Bethiah “all my Right to the Service of my Negro Man Chance.” At the time I saw this exhibit, that reference was essentially all the show’s curators knew about Chance. Continue reading Updating an exhibit