Monthly Archives: October 2015

Ancestral saints and martyrs

Fra Angelico for C C Lee post
Christ Glorified in the Court of Heaven, attributed to Fra’ Angelico, ca. 1424, courtesy National Gallery, London. The saints and martyrs of Christendom have been a frequent image in Western art throughout the centuries. Many of us descend from the women and men such art depicts.

On All Saints’ Day, Christians honor all saints, both known – many of them commemorated throughout the liturgical year – and unknown. The date has been fixed on the first of November in the Catholic Church, often transferred to the first Sunday of the month by churches within the Anglican tradition and in other mainline Protestant churches. Continue reading Ancestral saints and martyrs

Citing internet sources

Alicia Crane WilliamsReaders have asked how to cite Internet sources. Confession, I don’t really know the answer – and I don’t think many others do, either. It is a new, still-evolving discipline complicated by the transitory nature of the beast, where links to pages get changed and/or vanish into cyberspace. Often I cannot even find my own way back to something I ran across while researching. Continue reading Citing internet sources

“No friend at court”

Hedwiga Gray diary1
Hedwiga Regina Shober Gray diary, entries for 5-7 February 1864. R. Stanton Avery Special Collections

Just as Morris Gray seems to have been a model child, so Regina Shober Gray’s only daughter, Mary (1848–1923), appears to advantage in her mother’s diary. Inclined to be timid – a tendency the robust Mrs. Gray tried to counter[1] – Mary Clay Gray[2] never married, although she did not lack for suitors, as seen in her mother’s diary entry for 16 February 1873. Continue reading “No friend at court”

A wedding at a glance

Beeckman Steward wedding invitationMy grandfather once told me that his parents had to wait for several years to marry. When they did, in January 1885, my great-grandfather was 32 and his bride 23 – hardly old by our standards, perhaps! My grandfather’s box of family papers yields a copy of the wedding invitation; even better, another envelope contains the tiny (2 5/8” by 4”) notebook in which my great-grandmother listed her wedding presents. Continue reading A wedding at a glance

Orphan trains

Orphan Train PictureI received a phone call the other day from my parents as they were driving through Kansas on a road trip. They wanted to tell me about a curious roadside advertisement they had seen that they thought would interest me: the National Orphan Train Complex in Concordia, Kansas. I had never heard of this museum, let along its subject, so I decided to do some sleuthing. What I discovered was an intriguing, controversial, and apparently slightly obscure facet of American history. Continue reading Orphan trains

Genealogical writing styles

Alicia Crane WilliamsSome Vita Brevis readers have sent me really nice samples of what they are doing using the Early New England Families Study Project format model. Thanks, you are all “on point” and doing a great job. Plenty of questions have been sent, too, so let’s address some of those.

Register style” vs “Early New England Families format”

First, there is no right or wrong way to use the Early New England Families format. Continue reading Genealogical writing styles

Leaving their mark

William Clapp House ca 1870A few months ago, my husband and I moved to Dorchester, Massachusetts, to work as caretakers of the William Clapp house, which was built in 1806. William Clapp and his wife, Elizabeth (Humphreys) Clapp, were married in the parlor of this house on 15 December 1806. They had nine children, two of whom died at a young age. This family also suffered the loss of three more children in November of 1838 from typhoid fever. Rebecca Clapp, aged twenty, and James Clapp, aged nineteen, died on the same day, and their brother Alexander Clapp, aged seventeen, died four days later. Continue reading Leaving their mark

A price beyond rubies

Clark watch imageIn 2010, I visited the town of Rose in Cumberland County, Nova Scotia, to meet the nieces and nephew of Ada Lophemia (Halliday) Clark. Ada was the second wife of my great-grandfather Thomas William Clark of Moncton, New Brunswick. Within the walls of their ancestral home in Rose I heard stories of a great-grandfather who died more than a quarter-century before I was born, a man that my own father only mentioned by name, and whose face is still unknown to me. No photograph is known to exist of my great-grandfather. Nonetheless, through genealogical research and family stories I have been able to draw a picture of what he was like, with a rough sense of his life story. Continue reading A price beyond rubies

Shoes in the attic

Jan Doerr 1
“Sealer of leather”

When Chicken Little said the sky was falling, I did not take that to mean corsets and shoe lasts. I’ve learned while restoring and renovating my old house that the unexpected is to be expected, that making a change here means a ripple effect of changes there, and that what goes up must come down, usually when I’m not expecting it.

When our carpenters were working on the original back staircase, everything seemed to fall out of the old ceiling: square hand-cut nails, buttons, a hand-cut wooden spoon, a wooden shoe last, some small bones I’d rather not discuss, but not one bag of Colonial-era coin, no now-priceless daily diaries. Continue reading Shoes in the attic

Family plots: Part Two

Coolidge plot HamiltonRiffing on something Chris Child wrote about collecting photos of family members in July, I thought I might do something similar with information about family burial plots. Such an exercise leans heavily on (where some of the images may be found), although in my case I also have the notes compiled by my great-aunt Margaret Steward in 1966 as a resource for my research.

My grandparents are easy: my father’s parents (and stepmother) are buried at Hamilton Cemetery in Massachusetts, while my mother’s parents (and stepmother) are buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. I was present for my paternal grandfather’s memorial service in 1991, my maternal grandfather’s burial in 1994, and for my paternal step-grandmother’s memorial service in 1996. Continue reading Family plots: Part Two