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→
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.
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→
[Editor’s note: This blog post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 3 October 2016.]
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.
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→
Over a year ago I wrote aVita Brevis post about my great-great-great-grandfather, James O’Neil, who successfully sued the town of St. Johnsbury, Vermont, for the wrongful death of his daughter, Emily O’Neil. I had only recently learned that James had three children in Vermont before moving to Boston in the early 1870s: Mary Ellen (1864), Arthur Michael (1866), and Emily Ann (1867). Continue reading James O’Neil revisited→
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. 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, 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.Continue reading A treasure indeed→
[Author’s note: This blog post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 9 September 2016.]
One of the trends in my ancestry is the curious one whereby, when given the choice between staying in a locale or moving on, my nineteenth-century forebears often remained behind as other relatives ventured further west. One of the sadder family stories is covered in the 1999 book Intimate Frontiers: Sex, Gender, and Culture in Old California, by Albert L. Hurtado, and concerns my great-great-great-uncle John Henry Beeckman (1818–1850).
Uncle John was the eldest son of Henry Beeckman and Catherine McPhaedris Livingston, and the family was a prosperous one in the days before the Civil War. That they were socially acceptable to New Yorkers and Virginians alike is suggested by the fact that John H. Beeckman married Margaret Gardiner in 1848 at the Virginia plantation of the bride’s brother-in-law, former President John Tyler. Still, John Beeckman was a young man, fired up by the discovery of gold in California, and in 1849 he left bride and newborn son to travel west. Continue reading ICYMI: Lost generations→
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→
Before getting too far into a new Early New England Families Study Project sketch, I do some preliminary investigation. For example, if the family has already been treated in a sourced and reliable publication – such as a recent article in the Register – then there is no need to duplicate it. Also, if the couple did not have children, or did not have surviving children, then they fall outside the parameters of the project.
Other considerations include whether or not there are accessible (to me) records, and whether there are any major complications, such as identifying spouses and children, that warrant deeper investigation. With 30,000 marriages to be done, priority has to go to those with the best possible chance of getting published in my lifetime. Continue reading A guy named Guido→
Do we really need to assess all the published resources we use in our genealogical research? It obviously takes time and effort to consider even the ten categories we are using for this experiment in “scoring” genealogies, not to mention that assigning numbers to subjective criteria is tricky. In the end, however, the exercise does give us a way to compare the enormously disparate genealogical sources we use. Our two test subjects – The Phelps Family of America and The Bulkeley Genealogy – are similar, yet they scored very differently. From a maximum score of 100, The Phelps Family eked out a 40, while The Bulkeley Genealogy nearly topped the chart with 90. Continue reading Assessment→