Monthly Archives: November 2016

Generations of Johns

Alicia Crane WilliamsThe name of “John” Alden was passed down for five consecutive generations.

John1 Alden, of course, was the passenger on Mayflower with his soon-to-be bride, Priscilla Mullins.

John2 Alden, their first son and second child, was born about 1626. He went to the big city, Boston, where he became a very successful ship captain and merchant. His wife, Elizabeth (Phillips) Everill, was the daughter of William Phillips, a large land owner, and widow of Abiel Everill. Continue reading Generations of Johns

Take a guess

mabelle-3In gathering records on people – especially in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries – I often find people listed with middle initials. Sometimes finding the full middle names can be challenging; sometimes it’s impossible! (In some cases, such as Harry S. Truman or J.R. “Johnny” Cash, the initials may not even actually stand for anything.) Continue reading Take a guess

A lesson in history

American historian, librarian, and former AHA president Justin Winsor (1831-1897). Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

One might be surprised to learn that the profession of “historian” in America is a fairly recent creation. The American Historical Association (AHA), founded in 1884, was established partly in reaction to growing numbers of individuals who were pursuing the serious study of history.[1] America’s earliest historians were focused largely on recording the events and sequence of history: that is, political events, wars, and other nation-building activities. Only recently have America’s historians begun to ask what life was like for ordinary men, women, and minority groups – questions of significant relevance and interest to family historians and genealogists.[2] Continue reading A lesson in history

‘More than books can give’

[Author’s note: This series, on Mrs. Gray’s reading habits, began here.]

PP231.236 Regina Shober Gray. Not dated.
Regina Shober Gray by [Edward L.] Allen, ca. 1860. Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society, Item PP231.236
In this installment from the Gray diary, it is interesting to read Regina Shober Gray’s[1] 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…”[2] 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.”[3]

61 Bowdoin Street, Boston, Sunday, 15 March 1863: A clear cold day – fine sleighing. Sallie G[ray][4] 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,[5] 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’

Thankful for our volunteers

hampton-records-shawThis 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

Surrounded by family

Anne Beekman Ayer

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

‘Day from night’

Freddy and Thelma McLean in Boston

Concluding the story of my great-grandparents’ years in Telluride, Colorado:

During her second pregnancy, my great-grandmother Alice (Pheasey) McLean suffered from a kidney ailment then known as Bright’s disease. Alice’s eyesight and her health in general seemed be on a downward spiral following her husband’s death. A December 1905 news item stated: “Mrs. Alice McLean has been real sick for a week.” In February, the paper described Alice’s condition as “very serious” and said that “Doctor Hadley [was called] several times yesterday and last night.” Continue reading ‘Day from night’

Harvard graduates

Alicia Crane WilliamsOne of the best sources I use is Biographical sketches of graduates of Harvard University, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. John Langdon Sibley compiled the first three volumes, covering the classes of 1642 through 1689 (published between 1873 and 1885). The collection is still colloquially known as “Sibley’s Harvard Graduates,” although his successor, Clifford K. Shipton, published more volumes covering classes from 1690 through 1771 (between 1933 and 1975), a total of 17 in all. The text from these books is available in the database Colonial Collegians: Biographies of Those Who Attended American Colleges before the War for Independence on Continue reading Harvard graduates

The trouble-maker

Courtesy of

By several accounts, John Oldham was a trouble-maker. He was argumentative, hot-tempered, and known to quickly fly into rages. However, his adventurous spirit led him to be take risks, including becoming the first European to travel what would later be called the Boston Post Road. Continue reading The trouble-maker

A growing sense of community

charleston-gazetteThe Stamp Act, passed in 1765 by the British Parliament, was a levied tax on legal documents, almanacs, and newspapers – basically, any form of paper used in the American colonies. The reason Britain passed the Stamp Act was to pay for the British troops stationed in North America, there to “protect” the colonists.

The tax was to be paid in the British form of money, sterling, not the paper money the colonists used. This was the first direct tax that Parliament had used on the colonists. (The Sugar Act, passed in 1764, was a tax on trade rather than a tax on the everyday life of the colonists.) Continue reading A growing sense of community