Monthly Archives: February 2018

Genealogical lessons

A poster dated April 24, 1851, warning colored people in Boston to beware of authorities who acted as slave catchers. Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Many genealogists will tell you that they get absorbed into the world of the ancestors they are researching. Often one can’t help but recreate their environment and the things they experienced while seeking out documents that help piece together that puzzle. Due to the nature of my work, for me this means coming face to face with the realities of slavery and colonization nearly every day.

Slavery research can be difficult logistically as I try to piece together the lives of ancestors where little documentation exists. The harder aspect of the work is emotional, particularly when it means going page by page through slavery registers of children to find an ancestor recorded among them. Regardless of the challenges, it is important work that has provided me with a much deeper understanding of our past as a nation and the continuing implications of that history on our present. Continue reading Genealogical lessons

Citations

First, does the book give footnotes, endnotes, or other citations to the sources the author used? Second, are those citations useful?

One could say that “any citation is better than none,” and citations do not have to follow all of the “manual of style” rules to be useful. Their main purpose is to tell the reader where the information came from. That said, an understanding of standardized citation rules is always better than none. Continue reading Citations

‘No sin in being tempted’

Regina Shober Gray by [Edward L.] Allen, ca. 1860. Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society, Item PP231.236
In these entries from the Regina Shober Gray[1] diary, we find her analysis of a sermon at King’s Chapel as well as reflections on a yearned-for musical performance of the Handel & Haydn Society, the latter foregone as she was in mourning for two members of her family back in Philadelphia.

61 Bowdoin Street, Boston, Wednesday, 10 May 1865: Poor Lottie Hemingway [sic] was buried at noon yesterday. [It] was a pouring rain, and I suppose no one dared to go to the house – the disease is so fearfully malignant. If sympathy could comfort, her poor mother might be consoled, for all our hearts ache for her. And she must be so anxious for the other children. It seems Lottie did not sicken till Wednesday and [her sister] Amy[2] slept with her as usual till that time – spotted fever with violent spinal inflammation.

Our precious daughter[3] comes home tomorrow from her week’s visit to Annie Dixwell.[4] We shall be glad to get her back – she leaves an awful blank in her absence. Continue reading ‘No sin in being tempted’

Filles du Roi

With the genealogy that I’ve completed so far on my family, I have found that I am French – so French! I have one great-grandparent from Roscommon, Ireland, but the rest of my family, as far back as I can research, is French. My maternal family originated in Meaux, France, while my paternal family came from Paris. Both sides emigrated to Quebec, Canada in the mid-1600s among the early settlers of New France.

As someone who has researched the history of the Mayflower passengers for her job, I am familiar with the excitement and honor of being related to an early settler. According to the American-French Genealogical Society website,  most people who can trace their ancestry to Canada are descended from one of the 800 women who settled there as part of a program that began in 1663. This program was called “les Filles du Roi,” or “the King’s Daughters.” Continue reading Filles du Roi

What’s her name?

https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/118608465/nancy-paine

While today a married woman going back to an earlier surname is not that uncommon, such a progression sometimes happened in earlier time periods. The following case was interesting, as this individual appeared to be going “back and forth” between the surnames of her two spouses – her reasoning is hard to follow.

Nancy Lippitt was born at Killingly, Connecticut 17 November 1813, the daughter of Nathaniel and Rebecca (Bartlett) Lippitt. She married Comstock Paine of Smithfield, Rhode Island, at Killingly 17 January 1833; they had one son, Charles L. Paine (1840–1879). I can’t find the family in the 1840 census, but some of the pages for Killingly are now illegible. Nancy L. Paine appears without her husband in the 1850 census in Thompson, Connecticut (which then bordered Killingly), along with her son Charles. Continue reading What’s her name?

‘May sunshine ever stream’

My great-aunt Anna. Click on the images to expand them.

Among the family photos, letters, and other memorabilia that my mother passed on to me are a group of Valentine’s Day cards sent to my great-aunt, Anna E. Johnson (1896–1990), who received them from her classmates at Hopewell School in Scott County, Iowa, in the early 1900s. When she sent them to my mother she said that she was sending these among others in her collection because “I thought these were the lacy ones.” Indeed, my mother and I found them so special that they remain family treasures today. Continue reading ‘May sunshine ever stream’

‘Neutral ground’

Frederick Ayer

Many of us have bunches of old family letters set aside to review – preferably with the sender and the recipient already noted on the envelope. Years ago, as I was researching my first family history (The Sarsaparilla Kings[1]), I was fortunate enough to have some published (as well as unpublished) sources available to consider the relationship between my great-great-grandfather Frederick Ayer (1822–1918) – one of the two Sarsaparilla Kings – and his son-in-law George Smith Patton Jr. (1885–1945).

Frederick Ayer made two distinct fortunes – in patent medicines with his elder brother, Dr. J. C. Ayer, and in textiles and other investments later in life – and by the turn of the twentieth century he was a wealthy man. His second wife, Ellen Barrows Banning (1853–1918), was a member of a sprawling family with connections in Delaware, Minnesota, and California, among them to the family of George and Ruth Patton of San Gabriel, California. Continue reading ‘Neutral ground’

Royal cartes de visite: Part Four

[This series on royal cartes de visite began here.]

At left: The wedding of the Prince of Wales and Princess Alexandra of Denmark, 1863. Standing: The Crown Princess of Prussia, Prince Louis of Hesse, the bridegroom, and Princess Helena. Seated or kneeling: Princess Louise, the Queen, Princess Beatrice, the bride (holding a photo of the late Prince Consort), and Prince Arthur.[1]

The daughters-in-law of Queen Victoria and the Prince Consort entered a household in mourning; what Princess Alexandra found in 1863 Grand Duchess Marie encountered in 1874, and as late as 1882 the young Duchess of Albany knew it, too, although time had somewhat muffled the early excesses of the Queen’s grief. Continue reading Royal cartes de visite: Part Four

Format

Over the centuries tens of thousands of different formats have been used to present genealogies depending on what system the author chose to use. Within the last half-century or so, standards of genealogical format have been developed and accepted by the professional community. Recommended reading: Penny Stratton’s online series on genealogical writing and publishing, and also her book, available as an e-book as well as in a print edition.

However, standardized rules do not ensure, even today, that everyone follows them, nor that they are understood. This means that evaluating a genealogy, old or new, requires consideration of whether the format is a help or a hindrance to our research. Standardized formats we use today have two particular aspects of importance – numbering systems and arrangement of information. Continue reading Format

ICYMI: Family puzzles

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

My mother’s maternal grandparents Martin and Elizabeth (Heft) Schwindt and their family, including my grandmother Elizabeth standing second from right, in Nebraska ca. 1910.

When I was young, my mother mentioned that in her youth her parents would sometimes playfully argue whether Norka was better than Balzer. When asked what that meant she explained to me that these were the names of villages in Russia. That confused me because I knew that she was of German descent. She explained that her German ancestors moved to Russia but eventually life became hard for them there, and after several generations they emigrated to the United States.

I wanted to know more about why they left their homeland to make such a long and difficult journey, especially after learning that the conditions they found in Russia were little better and in some cases worse than in Germany. Continue reading ICYMI: Family puzzles