Tag Archives: Critical Analysis

I left my ship in San Francisco

My lovely step-mother, Joanne Athearn, checking out the diorama of the Niantic in her beached state.

In my last post for Vita Brevis, I shared a picture of “Cleaveland House” on Martha’s Vineyard, which is currently owned and inhabited by a direct descendant of James Athearn, the man who built it. One reader asked, “How did ‘Cleaveland House’ get its name? Is there any association with the descendants of Massachusetts Colonist Moses1 Cleveland?”

The house is named for Athearn’s great-great-grandson, Capt. James Cleaveland, who bought the house about a century after its construction and substantially renovated it. Its next major renovation came about a century after that, when it finally acquired modern amenities such as indoor plumbing! Continue reading I left my ship in San Francisco

One and the same

A post I had written awhile back on twins in my father’s family included my conclusion that my ancestor Sarah Johnson, who married Nathaniel Eaton in Ashford, Connecticut in 1755, was the daughter of Maverick and Bathsheba (Janes) Johnson of nearby Lebanon, Connecticut, which gave her a different set of parents than had been stated in family histories and papers.[1] My reasoning for this conclusion was largely ruling other possibilities out, and the interesting situation of several examples of twins in both Sarah’s proposed ancestral family and among her descendants. Still, at this point, I had no direct proof that Sarah was the daughter of Maverick and Bathsheba. Could I find any? Continue reading One and the same

A hint of Rosemary

She was just a little tyke, picture perfect really, her arms draped around a sheepish grandpa’s neck and shoulders. The only clue I had as to who she might be was in her name, Rosemary, penned out along with that of “Grandpa” in stylish ink beneath the old photograph. She and Grandpa (or rather a grainy picture of the same …) arrived in my mail box all the way from Alexandria a few weeks ago.

I didn’t start out looking for Rosemary, and I really wasn’t too sure who “Grandpa” was, either, but the more I looked at their picture, the more they seemed to be calling out to me. I was pretty sure I’d never “met” Rosemary before in the family tree – and I definitely needed to back track a bit on figuring out just who “Grandpa” was. However, like most of us who do family history, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to let it go. There seemed a reason for Rosemary to be looking at me from that old picture – and it was going to bug me until I found out just who she was. Continue reading A hint of Rosemary

Long Island puzzles

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

Hiding in plain sight

Courtesy of belfastforum.co.uk.

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.[1]

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

Irish name variations

Recently Mary Ellen Grogan at NEHGS shared a great resource with me. It is called the Special report on surnames in Ireland [together with] varieties and synonymes of surnames and Christian names in Ireland by Robert E. Matheson. It is available in the NEHGS library. Copies of the “special report on surnames” and the separate “varieties and synonymes of surnames and Christian names” are also available digitally on HathiTrust. Continue reading Irish name variations

ICYMI: Shorthand systems

[Editor’s note: This blog post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 3 October 2016.]

From Alfred Janes, Standard Stenography: Being Taylor’s Shorthand (1882), courtesy of Google Books.

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.[1]

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

‘Indifferent to the world’

The Rev. Samuel Fayerweather (1725-1781), in the Society’s Fine Art Collection. Gift of Miss Elizabeth Harris of Cambridge, Massachusetts, May 16, 1924.

William Clark began keeping a journal in 1759 at the age of eighteen. He wrote an entry for almost every day until he died in 1815 at the age of seventy-five. The entire journal – fifty-six volumes and almost five thousand pages – is now held by the New England Historic Genealogical Society in Boston. Clark carefully recorded his neighbors’ births, marriages, and deaths, providing rich pickings for family history researchers, but the author of the journal is himself a fascinating character: a convert, a loyalist, and a refugee.

Clark was an Anglican clergyman by the time of the American Revolution, but – like many New England Anglicans – he had first joined the Church of England as a convert. His father, the Rev. Peter Clark, was a Congregationalist minister in Danvers, Massachusetts, and a leading “old light” defender of the colony’s Congregationalist establishment. Continue reading ‘Indifferent to the world’

James O’Neil revisited

Note that Patrick J. Kennedy, John F. Kennedy’s grandfather, appears two lines above James O’Neil’s entry; both men are listed at 23 Border Street.

Over a year ago I wrote a Vita 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

Humoresque

Jack Record and Katheryn Ogle in Kansas, 1934: Two sensible people.

Lately, it seems like I can’t catch a break! You see, I’ve been trying to put some good old-fashioned humor back into my life – without much success. Finding humor (or laughter) these days seems to take a whole lot of effort – and an even bigger dose of understanding. It’s as if the world has become filled with folks who are afraid to, you know … smile. I just don’t get it, as I’m pretty sure we were all schooled that facing the world each day with a smile makes the world a better place, right? Because of this, I’ve started to wonder about the ancestral origins of my own tomfoolery – and if any sense of humor isn’t “relative” after all.

Now, I can’t pretend to know the history or psychology behind humor or laughter. But it sure does function differently for each of us. Take the other day, for example. Continue reading Humoresque