Over the years I have had the chance to discuss the subject of ethnicity (and identity) with avid genealogists and those who are not all that interested in the field of genealogy. Many people will quickly share with you what their ethnicity is, with answers varying from “American” to a varied mix of ethnic origins. This answer, as you can imagine, can vary greatly with the knowledge each person has as to what was passed down to them by their parents about their own heritage. What I have noticed in these discussions is the depth in which these generational levels of ethnic origin will differ. Continue reading A question of identity
What an amazing opportunity it was to be part of the historic Global Family Reunion held in Queens, New York, on June 6, 2015, where I had the chance to meet NEHGS members, longtime friends and colleagues in the field of genealogy, and more than 3,500 new “cousins”! Continue reading An historic event
Thousands are expected to gather on Saturday, June 6, at the New York Hall of Science in Flushing Meadows, Queens, for the very first Global Family Reunion – founded by bestselling author A.J. Jacobs – who describes himself as “father of three, the husband of one, and the cousin to millions.” Expected to be the biggest, most extraordinary, and most inclusive family reunion in history, the world of genealogy is indeed watching this one and smiling. Continue reading Twenty-four degrees of separation
A century ago today, on 7 May 1915, the Cunard liner R.M.S. Lusitania was reaching the end of her latest transatlantic voyage. The Lusitania left New York on 1 May with 1,266 passengers and 696 crew on board, bound for Liverpool in England. While steaming eleven miles off the Old Head of Kinsale in Ireland, the vessel crossed the path of German U-boat U-20. The launch of a single torpedo into the hull of the Lusitania claimed the lives of 1,198 passengers and crew, leaving 761 survivors of an incident that lasted only eighteen minutes. Even though American lives were lost, it would be nearly two years before America entered the First World War in April 1917. Continue reading The centennial of the loss of the Lusitania
Ever since I was a child, I’ve loved baseball. My father would tell me stories about his own childhood, recalling Ted Williams batting at Boston’s Fenway Park, and Warren Spahn pitching at the former Boston Braves field. My father’s idols, they became mine. At age 12, I started researching baseball old timers and Hall of Famers—and then started writing letters to the players of the 1910s to 1930s. I wrote almost a dozen times to “Smoky” Joe Wood (1889–1985), the last surviving member of the team that christened Fenway Park in 1912 and won the World Series the same year. Each time I received a letter back, it contained answers to my questions about Smoky Joe’s playing days, as well as a signed piece of baseball memorabilia I had sent him. Continue reading Twin Pastimes: Baseball and Genealogy
As a child, I used my allowance to purchase a family tree fan chart at the former Goodspeed’s antiquarian bookstore here in Boston. This provided my first canvas to visually organize and chart the facts I was collecting. My first objective was simply to fill in as many of the blanks about my ancestors as I could. After all, the fan chart required only names and dates. But then I wanted to know more about them. And for those stories, I turned to my maternal grandmother. Continue reading In Search of Livelihoods
An era in New England has ended. The last person born in the region during the nineteenth century died 3 January 2015 at the age of 115. Bernice Marina (Emerson) Madigan was born on Hill Street in West Springfield, Massachusetts, on 24 July 1899. Her birth record appears at American Ancestors.org; her obituary may be read here.
She was the daughter of Harry G. and Grace E. (Bennett) Emerson, who were married at West Springfield on 15 September 1897. Her father was a barber in West Springfield; her mother was a native of Cheshire, Massachusetts. Continue reading The end of an era
When I was a child, I became very interested in family history. At the unusual age of seven, the stories of my forebears were more fascinating than the cartoons on television. I could listen for hours to my maternal grandmother as she told stories of her past.
Fifteen years ago this week I said my last goodbyes to my father, George Richard Lambert (1925–1999). My father grew up in East Boston, Massachusetts, at the height of the Great Depression, and he fought in World War II. When my dad died, my elder daughter Brenda was only four years of age. Now a college freshman, she still fondly remembers the stories I told her about the Lambert grandparents she hardly knew. Continue reading The gift of family history
My actual hometown is seventeen miles south of Boston; I have called Stoughton my home since birth, and as a genealogist I can claim a variety of ancestral home towns or villages. Genealogically speaking, however, I feel most at home in Nova Scotia, Canada.
My paternal great-grandfather, James Albert George Lambert of Halifax (1846-1928), was for many years my genealogical brick wall. Back in the 1980s and 1990s I spent countless hours writing letters and going online, but these searches never allowed me to leap over that brick wall. Continue reading Returning to my ancestral home in Nova Scotia
As a community historian for Stoughton, Massachusetts, I have studied all local families from the early eighteenth to the early twentieth centuries. Within Stoughton there was a population of Native Americans placed into the Praying Indian village of Punkapoag through the efforts of the Rev. John Eliot in 1657. As the Tribal Historian of the Massachuset-Punkapoag Indians, I have also spent many years researching the members of that community. Continue reading The Indian and African-American populations of Stoughton