All posts by Alice Kane

About Alice Kane

Alice Kane worked with NEHGS constituents until 2020, orienting and facilitating research for first-time visitors to the NEHGS headquarters. Prior to joining the staff, she was a librarian at the Boston Public Library for 19 years. Alice is an expert in Chinese and Chinese-American genealogy and also has extensive experience with French-Canadian, Irish, and German research. She earned a bachelor’s degree in History from Harvard University.

Chinese burials in Boston

Memorial Altar at Mount Hope Cemetery. Photo by Aaron Knox,

This year I was sorry to miss a festival my family has participated in annually since my childhood. During the fall, two Chinese festivals commemorate ancestors: the Ghost or Hungry Ghost Festival and the Double Ninth Festival. The Ghost Festival occurs on the fifteenth night of the seventh month in the Chinese lunar calendar (typically held sometime between mid-August and mid-September), and the ghosts of ancestors are said to be visiting their living descendants, who offer meals and material items for their enjoyment. The Double Ninth Festival that my family observes occurs on the ninth day of the ninth month (some time during the month of October), and we honor our ancestors at the cemetery. Continue reading Chinese burials in Boston

Genealogy 101: the librarians’ view

Alice KaneRecently, I had the pleasure of attending this year’s annual conference of the Massachusetts Library Association as a panelist for its Genealogy 101 discussion session. The goal of the session is to inform public librarians about how the staffs of genealogically-oriented libraries and organizations work with patrons to answer their reference questions. Assisting patrons with genealogical questions is increasingly frequent for public librarians, given the popularity of prime time shows such as Who Do You Think You Are? and Finding Your Roots. My fellow panelists were Joy Hennig, Worcester Public Library; Susan Aprill, Kingston Public Library; Barbara Burg, Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Boston; and Marie Lamoureaux, American Antiquarian Society in Worcester. Continue reading Genealogy 101: the librarians’ view

The “Orange Wars” of Chinese New Year

Oranges and money envelopes given for luck during the Lunar New Year.
Oranges and money envelopes given for luck during the Lunar New Year.

With all the snow flying in Massachusetts these past few weeks, I nearly forgot that now is the time of the “orange wars.” At the beginning of every year, I must also mind the lunar calendar as well as the Western or Gregorian one, as Chinese, Koreans, Vietnamese, and other cultures continue to follow the cycles of moon phases to track the seasons and their related cultural and religious activities. February 19 was Lunar New Year’s Day for 2015, which—according to the Chinese zodiac cycle—is the Year of the Ram or Sheep. A nicely done tale of how the Zodiac animals came to be chosen can be found here. Continue reading The “Orange Wars” of Chinese New Year

Barber’s History and Antiquities

Barber coverThese days, it is easy to find information about any location in the world by typing in the place name on one’s personal computer from the comfort of home. The digital search results can even include high-resolution images of the desired site and its immediate vicinity. However, delving into the past of a place is not as easy, and for this activity the printed book can convey not only information but context. The History and Antiquities of Every Town in Massachusetts is a historical travelogue of Massachusetts for the modern researcher. Its author, engraver and historian John Warner Barber, gives his historical perspective of the towns and cities of Massachusetts from their respective beginnings up until the time of the volume’s publication in 1839. Continue reading Barber’s History and Antiquities

Mapping Vermont

New_Hampshire_grants_(1776)-croppedAs part of the Society’s Ask a Genealogist service, I was recently asked about locating someone in post-Revolutionary War Strafford, Vermont. The time frame in which this person lived reminded me of the special considerations for this region, which was once hotly disputed  by New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, and even Massachusetts.

The territory that would become today’s Vermont was claimed by both New Hampshire and New York in the mid-eighteenth century, a squabble that took years to sort out. In general the land grants made by New Hampshire governor Benning Wentworth between 1749 and 1764 lay in territory already claimed by New York. A royal decree of 1764 awarded jurisdiction over the disputed territory to New York, which created four counties: Albany (established in 1764), and from Albany County Gloucester (1766) and Charlotte and Cumberland Counties (1772). Continue reading Mapping Vermont

Ideas for Cuban research

Havana Cathedral
The Cathedral in Havana

During my career in genealogy, I’ve become somewhat expert on a variety of subjects, even Cuban research – unexpected, perhaps, but true! Research at a distance – and for Americans, all Cuban research must currently be at a distance – is a challenge, but Brigham Young University’s Guide to Cuba may be a good start for references to publications and websites related to Cuban research. Continue reading Ideas for Cuban research

Twentieth century research in Massachusetts

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Massachusetts is one of a handful or so states that allow relatively open access to vital information.  It is certainly possible to conduct family research after 1930 for Massachusetts using a combination of resources. provides free access to its record image and index databases that encompass records from around the world. Continue reading Twentieth century research in Massachusetts

Online family trees

onlinefamtrees2A recent reference question led me on an interesting journey discovering more about online family trees. Using a family tree service on the Web has attractive benefits:  a centralized location on the Internet to store your family information, the immediacy of sharing by digital means your information with relatives and potential relatives, the thrill of locating new individuals or information to enhance your tree and further your research, not to mention networking opportunities to really thrash out a stubborn brick wall. Continue reading Online family trees

A shopping list of technological and genealogical resources

Tree monitorAs I was pulling together information for my upcoming April presentation, “Genealogy on the Go: Mobile Tools to Manage Your Discoveries,” I started thinking about how genealogy and technology go hand-in-hand these days – but that finding out more about the technology part, besides its application to genealogy, can sometimes be confusing for beginning users. Here are some places online I think would be helpful in finding tech information and news, as well as kin and research allies! Continue reading A shopping list of technological and genealogical resources

Speaking in public

The first month or so of the New Year is turning out to be quite a busy one in terms of presenting lectures.  Part 1 of a Mobile Genealogist series on Dropbox and Evernote is done, part 2 of the series on the Flip-Pal scanner and cameras is upcoming on February 1, and I will be off to Salt Lake City to present on Evernote at RootsTech the week after. Under development is a lecture for the Fundamentals track of the 2014 Massachusetts Genealogical Council (MGC) Annual Meeting and Seminar on July 26 in Mansfield, Massachusetts. Continue reading Speaking in public