Category Archives: Genealogical Writing

One and the same

A post I had written awhile back on twins in my father’s family included my conclusion that my ancestor Sarah Johnson, who married Nathaniel Eaton in Ashford, Connecticut in 1755, was the daughter of Maverick and Bathsheba (Janes) Johnson of nearby Lebanon, Connecticut, which gave her a different set of parents than had been stated in family histories and papers.[1] My reasoning for this conclusion was largely ruling other possibilities out, and the interesting situation of several examples of twins in both Sarah’s proposed ancestral family and among her descendants. Still, at this point, I had no direct proof that Sarah was the daughter of Maverick and Bathsheba. Could I find any? Continue reading One and the same

A hint of Rosemary

She was just a little tyke, picture perfect really, her arms draped around a sheepish grandpa’s neck and shoulders. The only clue I had as to who she might be was in her name, Rosemary, penned out along with that of “Grandpa” in stylish ink beneath the old photograph. She and Grandpa (or rather a grainy picture of the same …) arrived in my mail box all the way from Alexandria a few weeks ago.

I didn’t start out looking for Rosemary, and I really wasn’t too sure who “Grandpa” was, either, but the more I looked at their picture, the more they seemed to be calling out to me. I was pretty sure I’d never “met” Rosemary before in the family tree – and I definitely needed to back track a bit on figuring out just who “Grandpa” was. However, like most of us who do family history, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to let it go. There seemed a reason for Rosemary to be looking at me from that old picture – and it was going to bug me until I found out just who she was. Continue reading A hint of Rosemary

A-hunting we will go

For the most part, my ancestors travelled very little, inclined to stay on home ground, at home or on the farm. I’ve discovered, however, that as recreational travel became easier, some of my ancestors “went up country.”

Out of my squirrel bins came a large album clearly entitled “Illustrated Postcards.” At first I assumed it was nothing more than a collection of vintage postcards. Indeed it is that, but it is also a travel history, a list of friends and relatives, and at the very least an indication that my family members were all literate. Continue reading A-hunting we will go

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

Hiding in plain sight

Courtesy of belfastforum.co.uk.

I have been working on various genealogical projects since boyhood, with – as I hope – increasing research ability. Happily, there are times when a lucky Google search cuts through years of dead ends: as yesterday, when I went looking for my great-great-great-great-grandmother, Elizabeth Getty of Belfast, who died in Baltimore, Maryland 11 February 1839.[1]

Both Elizabeth and her husband, Dr. John Campbell White (1757–1847), have tantalizing if mysterious backgrounds: both came from Belfast, and Dr. White had professional credentials. As I’ve mentioned, he was the son of an esteemed minister in Templepatrick, not far from Belfast – but who were Elizabeth’s parents? Continue reading Hiding in plain sight

ICYMI: Shorthand systems

[Editor’s note: This blog post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 3 October 2016.]

From Alfred Janes, Standard Stenography: Being Taylor’s Shorthand (1882), courtesy of Google Books.

One day, when searching through the town records of New Haven, Connecticut, I was struck by one of the entries. The writing appeared like nothing I had ever seen before. After asking others for their thoughts, we found that none of us had ever seen this form of writing before. After some research, I discovered that what I had found was notation written in Taylor Shorthand, a system of writing developed by Samuel Taylor in 1786, the first system of shorthand writing to be widely used across the English-speaking world.[1]

Shorthand has long been used as a method of notation, often when time or efficiency is imperative, and as a result, it often appears in court documents and meeting minutes. Continue reading ICYMI: Shorthand systems

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

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

Genealogical healing

Catherine Dunn Parsons at her grandson’s wedding, 1999.

Among the emotions experienced at the conclusion of a genealogical investigation – surprise, satisfaction, pride, shock, joy, bewilderment – healing ranks high on my list. Almost 20 years ago, my friend Nancy Parsons Crandall asked me to prepare a family genealogy as a wedding gift to her son.

Nancy grew up with little family information of any kind. Three of her grandparents – two in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, and one in Rutland, Vermont – died within a month of one another during the flu epidemic of 1918. Continue reading Genealogical healing

A superfluity of Hamiltons

Click on image to expand it.

A recent review of my ancestral royal lines has suggested that they are all, in one way or another, problematic – either the line breaks here, in America, or there, in the British Isles. One approach I’ve tried, in a desultory way, is to look at all the lines around the desired royal one, creating an ancestor table (or ahnentafel) to manage the information (and keep me honest!).

I am a descendant of Robert Livingston, the first Lord of Livingston Manor (1654–1728), whose rank as a patroon testifies to his success as a land speculator in the Colony of New York. In roughing out an ancestor table for Robert, I was struck anew by the way even well-to-do families with property to inherit seem so often to lack agreed-upon pedigrees supported by contemporary records. Continue reading A superfluity of Hamiltons