All posts by Alicia Crane Williams

Alicia Crane Williams

About Alicia Crane Williams

Alicia is the lead genealogist on the new NEHGS study project, Early New England Families, 1641-1700. Prior to joining the NEHGS staff, she compiled and edited numerous important genealogical publications including The Mayflower Descendant, the Alden Family Five Generations project, and the Harlow Family : Descendants of Sgt. William Harlow (1624/5-1691) of Plymouth, Massachusetts. Alicia has served as Historian of the Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants, Assistant Historian General at the General Society of Mayflower Descendants, and as Genealogist of the Alden Kindred of America. She earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Connecticut and a master’s degree in History from Northeastern University. In October 2016, Alicia was elected a Fellow of the American Society of Genealogists.

Long Island puzzles

I have been struggling with the Early New England Families Study Project sketch for Thomas Cornish of Gloucester, Mass.; Exeter, N.H.; and Newtown, Long Island. While there are half a dozen published accounts on the family, or various parts of it, they disagree on almost everything.

Some accounts claim that Thomas had children who remained in New England; others point to evidence the Cornishes were in New York and New Jersey. Some accounts include a daughter Martha who married consecutively to Francis Swain and Caleb Leverich. Continue reading Long Island puzzles

A treasure indeed

On the list of books of which you have probably never heard is Cotton Mather’s Magnalia Christi Americana; or, The Ecclesiastical History of New-England…, originally published in 1702.[1] Roughly translated as The Glorious Works of Christ in America, it might not sound all that interesting and certainly doesn’t sound like a genealogical resource, but it really is a rich treasure of biographical information for early New England ministers.

The Rev. John Ward (1606–1693) of Haverhill, Massachusetts,[2] who was in New England by 1639, was the son of Great Migration immigant Rev. Nathaniel Ward, who arrived with some of his family in New England in 1634.[3] Continue reading A treasure indeed

My mother’s voice

Over the holiday weekend I have been going through my mother’s calendar diaries. The earliest I have (right now; I’m sure there are more hidden in boxes, although earlier years may not be in calendar books) begin with 1967 and end in 1992. That was when she was first diagnosed with “mild Alzheimer’s Disease.” It is sad to watch her entries in the late 1980s become confused and tail off, but it is heart-warming for me to read her earlier entries, when the voice of the mother I knew was strong.

One thing that popped out was her referring to me as “Lish.” This was my parents’ nickname for me, pronounced “Leesh” and taken from the family pronunciation of “Aleesha.” (The one person who gets away with calling me “Alisha” is Gary Boyd Roberts.) Continue reading My mother’s voice

Too young

Clarence Almon Torrey’s New England Marriages Prior to 1700 is a wonderful guide to material in published genealogies and articles at the NEHGS library. Often the entries have dozens of citations to sources. There are other entries, however, that are really short, such as:[1]

CUTTING, John Jr. & _____ _____ (had dau Mary); bef 1642

This type of entry can derive from a birth record for a child, but the citation to the child’s birth should be included. Where did Torrey find information on a John Cutting Jr. who married an unknown woman before 1642 and had a daughter Mary. And “grrrr”: why didn’t Torrey give a citation? Continue reading Too young

A guy named Guido

Before getting too far into a new Early New England Families Study Project sketch, I do some preliminary investigation. For example, if the family has already been treated in a sourced and reliable publication – such as a recent article in the Register – then there is no need to duplicate it. Also, if the couple did not have children, or did not have surviving children, then they fall outside the parameters of the project.

Other considerations include whether or not there are accessible (to me) records, and whether there are any major complications, such as identifying spouses and children, that warrant deeper investigation. With 30,000 marriages to be done, priority has to go to those with the best possible chance of getting published in my lifetime. Continue reading A guy named Guido

Assessment

Do we really need to assess all the published resources we use in our genealogical research? It obviously takes time and effort to consider even the ten categories we are using for this experiment in “scoring” genealogies, not to mention that assigning numbers to subjective criteria is tricky. In the end, however, the exercise does give us a way to compare the enormously disparate genealogical sources we use. Our two test subjects – The Phelps Family of America and The Bulkeley Genealogy – are similar, yet they scored very differently. From a maximum score of 100, The Phelps Family eked out a 40, while The Bulkeley Genealogy nearly topped the chart with 90. Continue reading Assessment

An imperfect score

Continuing a review of Donald Lines Jacobus’s Bulkeley genealogy of 1933:

Citations: Jacobus notes in his preface that “Full references are given in the section of this volume which relates to English origins, but in a volume of this size it was found impractical to make acknowledgment to the very large number of printed sources utilized… So far as possible, we checked with original record sources…” “Checked with” … but did not cite. Footnotes are sporadically used by today’s standards. In the English origins section, bibliographic lists of “Authorities” are provided and long abstracts of “documentary evidence” are identified to their sources, but Jacobus apologizes that “We have done what could be done with the imperfect data offered by printed authorities.” Continue reading An imperfect score

Pulling it all together: Part Two

Continuing with my assessment of The Phelps Family of America:

Scope: The work traces Phelps-named males through the ninth generation as well as some female descendants born with the Phelps surname to their children, and occasionally further through a grandchild with a non-Phelps surname. An effort was made to trace the Phelps family in Europe, presented in the form of 70 pages of transcribed, but not analyzed, correspondence with parish rectors and individuals named Phelps. The methodology was limited, but the scope deserves a score of 7. Continue reading Pulling it all together: Part Two

Pulling it all together

Over the past weeks I have been defining 10 categories to use when assessing the value, or lack thereof, of a genealogy. The question is not “Where do I find a list of the ‘good’ or ‘bad’ genealogies,” but “How do I judge whether a genealogy is good or bad?” For the experiment, I am assigning a maximum of 10 points per category with the idea of coming up with numbers that may allow us to compare thousands of genealogies. This is purely my subjective opinion, of course, and numbers by themselves have little meaning without the reasoning behind them, which is why I have included a good deal of reasoning in the examples below – which means it will take me several posts to complete my report. Continue reading Pulling it all together