Originating in an Italian proverb in 1603 and popularized by Voltaire in 1770, we have all heard the phrase “the perfect is the enemy of the good.” This phrase is very well-suited to the topic of searching genealogical databases, and particularly for AmericanAncestors.org.
Over the last year, the NEHGS web team has been researching a wide variety of things that we can do to improve the search experience for our 250,000 members. Along the way it has become clear that one of the bigger problems our members face is the dreaded “0 records returned” message (Figure 1). You just know that the record you are looking for is out there, but you can’t seem to find it when you fill out the search form. Continue reading ‘The perfect is the enemy of the good’→
Over the next few years, you’ll hear more and more about the 400th anniversary of the Puritans and Separatists who sailed on Mayflower in 1620. We know them as “The Pilgrims.” In 1620, the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth in Massachusetts Bay, where they found harsh weather, an unfamiliar land, and where they were responsible for the care of (initially) 102 people in their new Colony.
William Bradford, the Governor of Plymouth Colony, is one of the few individuals who documented his life in the early years of the settlement. Governor Bradford was the longest-serving governor of the colony and is well known for his book, Of Plymouth Plantation, written between 1630 and 1651.Continue reading Trouble with Speedwell→
One of the features of the recently-announced engagement of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry of Wales is the news that they are distant cousins, descendants of Sir Philip Wentworth (d. 1464) and Mary Clifford. It is remarkable to think of this remote pair, who lived 550 years ago, being represented today by the engaged couple, both born as recently as the 1980s. So who were they, Sir Philip and Lady Wentworth?
Philip Wentworth was born about 1424 to Roger Wentworth, Esq. (d. 1462) of Parlington, Yorkshire, and Nettlestead, Suffolk, and his wife Margery le Despencer (widow of John de Ros, 7th Baron de Ros). Philip would become Usher of the King’s Chamber, King’s Sergeant, Esquire of the Body, King’s Carver, and Sheriff of Norfolk and Suffolk. The Constable of Llansteffann and Clare Castles, Sir Philip was also a Knight of the Shire of Suffolk. Continue reading A family affair→
As Gary Boyd Roberts announced yesterday, Meghan Markle has a distant kinship to Prince Harry through their shared descent from Sir Philip Wentworth (died 1464) and his wife Mary Clifford. While Gary continues to work on much of Meghan’s American ancestry, especially her forebears in colonial New England, I’ve composed the chart at left from his notes. This outlines the three closest kinships between Meghan and Harry that have so far been identified – two through Harry’s mother and one through his father. As Gary has noted, there are hundreds of other ways they would be distantly related.
Today’s announcement of the engagement of Prince Henry Charles Albert David of Wales and Ms. Rachel Meghan Markle reminds me of an interesting genealogical tree that recently entered the Society’s collection. Bought by D. Brenton Simons from an antiquarian book dealer in the United Kingdom, it is a print from the 1900 edition of Mrs. Oliphant’s Queen Victoria: A Personal Sketch.
A simpler version of the royal family tree published for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897, the print treats the Queen (but not her late husband, Prince Albert, who had died as long ago as 1861) as the trunk of the tree, with her eldest children as the most established branches. Continue reading A royal engagement→
Today marks the one-thousandth Vita Brevis post since the blog launched in January 2014. The blog’s pages have been accessed more than one-and-a-half million times, and by my (not very scientific) count the following eighteen posts have led the field, read by more than one hundred thousand readers.
By far and away the most-read post at Vita Brevis is Chris Child’s August 2014 account of Robin Williams’s maternal ancestry. The circumstances of Williams’s death, and the affection he had inspired in millions of Americans, made the post a place to stop and reflect about what he had meant to members of the genealogical community. Continue reading The thousandth post→
November is National Podcast Month, so this is the perfect month to share some favorite podcasts. Typically, a podcast is an episodic audio (sometimes video) program that can be downloaded online. Think of these as a form of talk radio in which you can choose when to tune in. The topics of the programming varies widely, so there are many that are useful and interesting to us as family historians.
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→
Last month, my wife and I took a vacation to Madrid. While Spanish is my wife’s largest “pre-1492” ethnic background (the others being African and Native-American), I have yet to trace an ancestor who was actually born anywhere besides the Dominican Republic. The furthest I’ve gone is to an ancestor born about 1713, who appears on an 1812 census in her father’s hometown of San Francisco de Macoris. (See this post for information on some of my wife’s Dominican Republic ancestry.)
However, through a few of my own documented “royal” lines, I end up with a few cases of Spanish ancestry through my colonial British forebears. On our trip to Madrid, we walked through the Buen Retiro Park and outside the Royal Palace of Madrid, both of which have numerous statues of rulers of various Spanish kingdoms (Castile, Aragon, Leon, Barcelona, etc.), as well as monarchs after unification with the marriage of Ferdinand and Isabella. Continue reading Genealogical connections to Spain→