Tag Archives: Critical Analysis


Until very recently, the vast and rich world of genealogical publications was limited to those who could visit a library with a specialized collection, such as NEHGS. Most genealogies are, as one would expect, privately published by the author or client in limited numbers. Sometimes only a handful of copies were made and distributed to a few, select libraries, plus a small number of relatives, and that does not even begin to cover manuscript material of all those genealogies that never saw print, or collections of multiple family research by noted genealogists.[1]

The good news, of course, is that this is a case where the Internet has had a positive influence, with nearly every book in the world being digitized and made available online and exploding access to digitized manuscript material from every library and archive to boot.[2] Continue reading Accessibility

Boomerang photos

I grew up with few pictures from my mother’s side of the family. Her parents, Emory Morse and Lois Rhodes, had been near-neighbors as children in Wareham, Massachusetts. They divorced when my mother was eight. Mother had no further contact with her father until she was 40.

After my mother’s college graduation, her mother and step-father, a teacher working for the U.S. State Department, announced they had accepted a three-year-assignment in Ethiopia. Mother declined the opportunity to go with them. Instead, she accepted her first job as a clinical instructor and moved into a small apartment. Her family home in Maywood, New Jersey, was rented, with all contents of the house placed in a storage warehouse. Three months later, the warehouse burned – a total loss. Continue reading Boomerang photos

‘The pleasure of his acquaintance’

John Campbell White (1884-1967), Roosevelt’s Ambassador to Haiti and then Peru, and a great-great-grandson of Dr. John Campbell White of Baltimore. Courtesy of Wikipedia.org

The name Campbell has been a favored first or middle name in the Steward family for the last 170 years; before that it passed down in the White family of Baltimore and New York, where it was still recently in use. It was my great-great-great-grandfather Campbell Patrick White (1787–1859) who seems to have been the first to bear the name as a first name, and perhaps it was his father, Dr. John Campbell White (1757?–1847), who was the first White with the Campbell middle name.[1]

So the Campbells had a name with which to conjure, and according to a nineteenth-century cousin it was thanks to the marriage of Dr. White’s parents, the Rev. Robert White and Jane Thompson, that the name entered the White family. Jane and Robert were cousins, but it was Jane who was “the aunt of Sir John Campbell, Lieutenant General of the Isle of Jersey, and a connection of John Campbell the great Duke of Argyle.” Continue reading ‘The pleasure of his acquaintance’

‘Lovely lady’

Many posts ago, I bemoaned the fact that I had (and have) many photographs of unknown people, animals, and landscapes. I have always been lucky enough to have all these albums and bins, even if I can’t put names to faces, or labels to albums. I’ve learned a little about how to date clothing and surroundings, hairstyles and hats, and poses and props.

So it was with smug satisfaction and great glee years before reality set in that I retrieved a negative from its tightly curled state. Knowing who it was, I had it developed, and a safety negative prepared. Continue reading ‘Lovely lady’

Completeness and restraint

It is one thing for the author of a genealogy to have the goal (or scope) of publishing everything about all the descendants of [blank], and a much, much different thing to achieve that goal.

Clearly, there is no such thing as “everything” and “all.” The author has to decide what information she wants (or is able) to include, how much detail of that information to provide, and whether the same standard will be applied to everyone. Does the standard go beyond names, dates, and places? Are probates, land and church records, gravestones, obituaries, pensions, census records, and the like provided in detail when available? How exhaustive has the search for these facts been? Continue reading Completeness and restraint


John Hancock by Charles Willson Peale. Courtesy of the Rhode Island School of Design Museum

I attended a meeting of the local Daughters of the American Revolution chapter this past Saturday, to support the accomplishment of this year’s Good Citizen essay contest winner. So far, students from the high school where I work have a three-for-three record of winning, and last year’s entrant even went on to win the state competition!

Along with the essay contest winner, her friend, and a couple of others, I was introduced as a guest … and was surprised that one lady commented on my blog posts for Vita Brevis. She mentioned that I might be a prospective member, probably recalling something I wrote several months ago that mentioned an ancestor’s connections to John Hancock. Continue reading Red-lined


Courtesy of linkpendium.com-jackson-co-genealogy

The death of my great-great-grandfather John E. Lee, and the circumstances surrounding it, has always fascinated me. His demise is still somewhat shrouded in mystery. Born in Michigan in 1843, John served in the Civil War, afterwards moving west with his wife Lucy and their children to the “North Park” area of Colorado.[1] It was here in the mid-1870s that John and Lucy homesteaded, near the icy waters of the Michigan River, with John earning his living off the land as a skilled hunter and trapper. Continue reading Possibilities

Analyze what?

Genealogical articles, such as those published in the Register, very often address a problem or omission from a previously published genealogy. The author explains the problem, describes methods and sources used to address it, reports results and, then, if the answer is not clear cut, presents an argument as to why one conclusion is preferable to another.[1]

Every family has its share of complications that need to be addressed in their genealogy. The most common egregious element of nineteenth-century genealogies, in particular, is the claim of English/royal ancestry. Continue reading Analyze what?

Closer in time

General William Eaton (1764-1811). Courtesy of Wikipedia.org

Alicia’s post last week on certain advantages to older genealogies reminded me of an example where a published biography was the only contemporary source of a stated relationship (indirectly), despite the kinship being stated in numerous later genealogies.

In a post on my relatives – Tryphena and Tryphosa – I had mentioned that my ancestor Tryphena Eaton (1768–1849), was the daughter of Nathaniel and Sarah (Johnson) Eaton, and that Tryphena’s birth was not recorded.[1] Going back in time, Tryphena gets listed with these parents in Clarence Winthrop Bowen’s Genealogies of Woodstock Families, 4: 630–31 (written in 1932), which also says she married first Eli Kendall (1767–1808), and secondly, in 1809, Amos Paine (1766–1848), and also lists her older and younger siblings. Continue reading Closer in time

Revolutionary women

Needlework (including black silk, silk and gilt thread, beads) attributed to Sally Cobb Paine, circa 1760-65. Courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society online collections

March is women’s history month, which makes me think of my favorite women’s history topic, women in the American Revolution. Specifically, I enjoy learning about the social history of the time. Working as a family history researcher, these themes generally take a back seat to primary source documentation like vital, church, and probate records. But diaries and letters between family and friends remains one of my favorite sources to examine. What was the time period like for women? What were society’s expectations of them and how did they fulfill them? While women still held tight to traditional female roles, the American Revolution provided extraordinary circumstances for women and their daily lives.

The Massachusetts Historical Society holds papers for the Paine family of Taunton, Massachusetts. These family letters and diaries are full of details about life at the time and demonstrate themes of politics, marriage, and wartime separations. Continue reading Revolutionary women