Category Archives: Genealogical Writing

Banned in Boston

As genealogists, we can become quite proprietary about our research – there can be a sense that our work on the far-flung branches of our family trees gives us a kind of ownership of the past. Recently, I’ve experienced another sort of ownership, that claimed by the family being studied. I should add that this dynamic – I own the past, not you – is not a new one, but it never fails to surprise me. Continue reading Banned in Boston

Salt Lake City

Just shy of my seventieth birthday, I finally made it to Salt Lake City. I am a notoriously bad traveler (with a tendency toward such things as sciatica, migraines, and hives), but the occasion was the annual meeting of the American Society of Genealogists, and since this was the first meeting after my election as a Fellow last October it seemed rather rude not to show up.

I survived the trip and got to enjoy three mild, sunny October days in Salt Lake (the fourth day was cold and windy). I enjoyed meeting new colleagues and seeing old faces, some not seen in 30 or more years. Rachal Mills Lennon is our newest Fellow. Continue reading Salt Lake City

Dead Fred

Fred and Nellie Hayward

Many of our long-sought ancestors remain elusive despite our best efforts to find their hiding places, creating those inevitable brick walls. “Usually if the spirits want you to find something, you do. And if they don’t want you to find something, they don’t let you into the secret. Trust me.”[1]

One such “spirit” is my father’s step-grandfather, Fred A. Hayward.

Born in Vassalboro, Maine about 1860, one of six children of William C. and Margaret Fletcher (Lynn) Hayward, Fred in 1903 married my widowed great-grandmother Nellie (Ellen Frances Cony Church) as her second husband. I know little about Fred, and most of what I know I draw from what Fred left behind. Continue reading Dead Fred

Not always what you think

Next weekend, Bill Griffeth and I will be speaking at the Brattleboro Literary Festival on DNA and genealogy, and the surprise results described in his book The Stranger in My Genes. For those who are not are familiar with the book, it all started when DNA results were compared between Bill, his brother, and their first cousin. In their case, Bill’s mother was able to provide additional details explaining the surprise results. (I won’t spoil them.) Continue reading Not always what you think

Remarriage

The question came up after last week’s post about the length of mourning periods between remarriages in seventeenth-century New England. It has always been my (undocumented) impression that the traditional one-year mourning period was usually observed except for emergency situations, such as the need to care for infant and young children.

I looked around for some studies to see if I could back that up with statistics, but so far I have not found anything that particularly applies to early New England – a lot yet to track down, especially in books that are not available online. So I decided to start my own study using the Early New England Families sketches. Continue reading Remarriage

A man of information

The forged baptismal record for John Shipway in Charfield.

On 31 May 1619 John Shipway, the son of John Shipway, was baptized in Charfield in  Gloucestershire.[1] Or so it the record shows. However, in 1897, this record was found to be part of an elaborate fraud which ultimately resulted in the desecration of several historical relics, one unfortunate death, and a three-year prison sentence for its perpetrator. Continue reading A man of information

An ancestral secret

Nancy Dickerson Welch

A recent quiz in The Weekly Genealogist asked readers to share the nature of any secrets they’d uncovered about their ancestors. More than one third of respondents indicated that they had not uncovered any secrets – to which I say, “Hah! You just haven’t discovered them!” Of those who had uncovered ancestral secrets, the greatest number had to do with hidden marriages.

I suspect that most hidden marriages have been contracted by relatives who might be characterized as “the usual suspects”: those folks in every family who provide a long list of colorful anecdotes. Continue reading An ancestral secret

A tale of two Ogles

Mary Elizabeth (Kraus) Ogle (1886-1970)

There is a remote area in the study of family history. Some will call it a myth, or say it has no proper place in the field of study. It hides from anyone who would study it like a registrar, and rarely cloaks itself in any vital records. I’ve taken to calling it existential genealogy, and while hardly essential, I believe it is something all of us who study or experience family history encounter from time to time.[1]

As a young boy there was no one more revered in my family than my great-grandmother “Mrs. Ogle.” You may have heard me mention her before – with deference being given to her feelings concerning my grandmother’s adoption.[2] Continue reading A tale of two Ogles

Pandora’s box

I opened Pandora’s box. Traditionally, Daniel Fisher is credited with marrying Abigail Marrett/Marriot/Marrott, etc., daughter of Great Migration parents Thomas and Susan (Wolfenden) Marrett.[1]

This is supported by the record of marriage in Dedham of Daniell Fisher to Abigal Marriott on 17 November 1641, and by the will of Thomas Marrett dated 15 October 1663 naming his daughter Abigail [no surname given] and grandchildren “Lidea, Amos, John and Jeremiah Fisher.” Continue reading Pandora’s box

Stranger than fiction

The Whitaker family in 1930.

Is truth really stranger than fiction? I’ll let you be the judge. Out of the blue, I received a lengthy message this summer from a woman in Phoenix, through ancestry.com. Here’s an abridged version:

“Hello. Based on your family tree, I have a photo album that might be of interest to you. It was rescued from a dumpster, and I’ve had it in excess of 25 years without doing anything with it. Continue reading Stranger than fiction