Category Archives: News

Meghan Markle’s maternal family

Courtesy of Wikipedia.org

With Mother’s Day last Sunday and the wedding tomorrow of Miss Meghan Markle and Prince Harry of Wales, I thought I would write a post on some of her maternal ancestors. Often on Mother’s Day, genealogists consider their matrilineal ancestry as a way to honor their female ancestors.

The chronology of Meghan’s maternal grandmother was a challenging one. Reflecting modern life, over the course of a few generations women were married multiple times; sometimes their daughters’ surnames changed to those of their stepfather (sometimes much later in life!), and mothers’ maiden surnames were sometimes listed under their mothers’ later husbands’ names. I have summarized the line below with the relevant facts and sources. All ancestors are listed as black on the records when asked. The earliest generations of this family would have been enslaved until the end of the Civil War. Continue reading Meghan Markle’s maternal family

A decade of growth: technology

In the seventh floor reading room in 2012.

When it comes to technology, change comes quickly. In one decade, devices can transform almost beyond prediction. Back in April 2008, I could not have foreseen how technological advances would transform NEHGS.

Many advances came before my time. As Brenton summarizes: “We’d had a website since ’96, but it was a billboard. And in 2000, we launched the first searchable website, which had the Register on it.” Continue reading A decade of growth: technology

A decade of growth: content

With Judy Lucey on Free Fun Friday in 2013, working in a space that is now shared with the Society’s Jewish Heritage Center.

In addition to laying foundations for progress, over the past ten years NEHGS has greatly increased an already-impressive collection. Better still, we now find it much easier to access vast quantities of content.

When I first volunteered at NEHGS in 2006, its new leader, D. Brenton Simons, reached out to NEHGS members. “In my new role as president, I ask for your help in expanding our collections and increasing donor support in order to preserve our invaluable holdings. Together we can move our remarkable institution forward while still valuing our great traditions.”[1] Within the year, NEHGS launched Preserving New England’s Records: An Initiative for Family and Local History, and its goal has been to gather additional and varied materials for the R. Stanton Avery Special Collections.[2] We still have a vibrant collecting program, and you can learn more about donating here. Continue reading A decade of growth: content

A decade of growth: foundations

The author in 2009.

As genealogists spending time researching our ancestors’ lives, we often overlook our personal histories. Having this tendency myself, I now make a point of celebrating significant anniversaries by reflecting on the relevant years. This month marks my tenth anniversary as a full-time employee at NEHGS. Over the past decade, I have experienced first-hand the great march of progress here at NEHGS, but until I spoke with D. Brenton Simons, President and CEO, I had not realized just how closely our institution’s evolutionary waves coincided with my personal growth here. Continue reading A decade of growth: foundations

‘The perfect is the enemy of the good’

Figure 1

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’

The Hastings connection

Click on the image to expand it.

As Gary Boyd Roberts indicated in his press release, “Meghan Markle is related to Prince Harry hundreds of times over,” with the closest kinship being that of seventeenth cousins.

This chart shows three more kinships between Meghan Markle and her future husband, two through Prince Harry’s mother, and one through his father. The closest ancestors are Sir Robert Hildyard (who died in 1501) and Elizabeth Hastings. Continue reading The Hastings connection

Trouble with Speedwell

Author’s photograph

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

A family affair

Workshop of Hans Holbein the Younger, Queen Jane Seymour (1508?-1537). A great-granddaughter of Sir Philip Wentworth and Mary Clifford, she was the third wife of King Henry VIII. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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

The Wentworth connection

Click on the image to expand it.

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.

I’ve also been working on Meghan Markle’s American ancestors, so stay tuned! Continue reading The Wentworth connection

A royal engagement

R. Stanton Avery Special Collections

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.[1]

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